CEM REPORT, GOVERNANCE | The first batch of students who recently left for China on scholarship under the federal government’s Bilateral Education Agreement (BEA), may suffer eviction.
This is as a result of unpaid COVID-19 quarantine fees owed to several hotels in Guangzhou and other locations across the East Asian country.
Failure to meet up with payment at the end of their quarantine period which will risk them being evicted will imply that the students stand the risk of being denied Green Codes, which confirm the successful completion of quarantine and permits them to move to their school destinations.
The trapped students – 8, are among other beneficiaries of the BEA scholarship for 2020, 2021 and 2022, left Nigeria through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on October 26, 2022, en route to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and are expected to be joined by another batch of about 20 students on November 16, Daily Trust Saturday reports
The scholarship contract provides an allowance for the awardees through the period of the scholarship. Other supplement allowance offered with the scholarship includes; $500 per month for upkeep and books; a postgraduate research grant of $1,000 per annum and warm clothing allowance of $250 per annum. Also a take-off grant of N100,000 and a one-way ticket to the country of study.
However, the awardees currently quarantined in hotels in Guangzhou and other cities lamented that they had already exhausted their supplementation allowance of N1,447,500, which they were told was to cover the months of October to December this year to the payment of the fees, which were not provided for in their scholarship letters, while others said their parents and relatives had been selling properties to send them money.
What the students are saying
One of the students who wouldn’t want his name in print said they started facing financial difficulties before leaving Nigeria, adding that although their award letters indicated their allowance in dollars (500 USD per month) they were given the sum of N1,447,500 each without an explanation.
“We were also given one-way tickets (Ethiopian Airlines) and paid the sum of N45,000 as visa fees each here in Nigeria. But before then, we had to spend the sum of N30,000 each for a police report; N17,000 each for authentication of report by the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria, while also spending between N5,000 and N10,000 to obtain a seal on the police report. All these were from our pockets.”
Another awardee said before they departed from Nigeria they got information from their respective schools in China drawing attention to COVID-19 quarantine fees, which were not captured in the initial agreement.
“We collectively contacted the director, Federal Scholarship Board and drew her attention to this but she said there was no provision for a quarantine fee when the agreement was signed, and as such, she would not do anything in that regard.
“Even before leaving Nigeria, each of us had to shoulder the responsibility of paying N79,000 to carry out two COVID-19 tests at the cost of N39,500 per test. On getting to Addis Ababa, we also had to spend N223,500 each on quarantine fees and transit visas. All these expenses, including local transportation costs, were made from the supplementation allowances, which are now exhausted.“
While calling on the Federal Scholarship Board (FSB) to come to their assistance by providing more funds to augment their supplementation funds that have been expended on quarantine fees, some of the students expressed concern that the second batch of awardees expected to leave Nigeria before November 16 might face the same predicament.
“The second batch that is yet to leave Nigeria should be careful. If this quarantine issue is not given to them, we advise them not to leave. We are calling on the Federal Scholarship Board to urgently look into this matter,” the student said.
The report adds that only two of the students who had completed payment for their quarantine in Guangzhou were allowed to proceed to Beijing, where their schools are located. However, they would individually undergo another round of 14 days of quarantine before assessing their schools.
What the FSB is saying
Daily Trust Saturday also reports that when the Director of the Federal Scholarship Board, Mrs Asta Ndajiwo, who spoke through the Director of Press and Public Relations, Benjamin Goong, said the students had no case because they were provided with their upkeep.
“Whether in quarantine or school, we provided them with their upkeep daily.”
When informed that the students said they had already exhausted their upkeep money on quarantine fees, Goong simply said, “It doesn’t matter,” and declined further comments
The Bilateral Education Agreement (BEA) Division of the Federal Scholarship Board (FSB) is primarily charged with the responsibility of implementing scholarship awards between the federal government and the governments of countries that have signed the agreement with Nigeria.
Apart from China, other countries with Bilateral Education Agreements with Nigeria are Algeria, Cuba, Egypt, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Romania, Russia, Serbia, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine.