Nigerian scholarship students living from “hand-to-mouth” abroad as their funds have still not arrived 12 months later
More than 200 students who got a scholarship through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2019 are still stranded as their scholarship funds have still not arrived 12 months later.
Back in July, some of the Nigerian scholarship students protested at Nigeria’s High Commission’s office. They revealed that they’ve been forced to do odd jobs to survive.
CNN interviewed some of the affected students and they narrated how they’ve been sending emails to the awarding body without receiving a positive response.
Mercy Eyo is one of those affected. Mercy, from Bonny Island, Rivers State, was awarded a foreign postgraduate scholarship in July 2019.
She had just lost her father at the time. A year earlier, her mother had passed away.
She was elated about the prospect of starting a master’s degree in global health care management at Coventry University, in the United Kingdom, with a scholarship from a Nigerian government agency.
“I was super excited … I felt it was a consolation that would change my life forever,” Eyo said.
“It was that one little time I had hope in the Nigerian dream,” she told CNN, “because I wanted to return home afterward to offer what I had to the society.”
However, that dream has turned into a nightmare for Eyo who couldn’t travel despite selling most of her possessions to raise the money when NDDC didn’t fulfil their promise,
CNN has seen a scholarship letter dated July 29, email exchanges between Mercy Eyo and the awarding body and scanned copies of the letters she sent to the NDDC in December 2019 requesting funds to process her travel arrangements.
She was told to make her way abroad and the money would later follow, but despite selling her laptops, phones and other valuable properties, Eyo wasn’t able to raise her travel funds and visa processing fees and lost her place at the UK’s Coventry University.
She remains in Nigeria with no signs of the funds promised to her.
“These are things that make me cry sometimes or feel depressed,” Eyo told CNN.
Other scholarship students from Nigeria that CNN spoke to were able to make their way abroad. But they are also still waiting for the promised funds.
They told CNN that their emails and correspondence with the agency have been mostly ignored since September 2019.
The scholars are scattered in various universities across the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.
Another student, Andrew Saba is studying for a master’s degree in public health at the University of Aberdeen.
“I don’t know the worth of a Nigerian life to the people in power. I feel betrayed by Nigeria … I can’t understand how a country can abandon her brightest of minds in a foreign land. I can’t relate to priorities of the country,” said Saba.
“I am disappointed. It is supposed to be a joyful thing to get a scholarship from your country. Numerous countries give their citizens scholarship… but ours require extra activism to work. This is not how it should be.”
The students said they are going through a lot of hardship due to a lack of funds and are unable to engage in menial jobs to survive because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Each masters’ scholar is owed $30,000, while the PhD students are owed $90,000, which runs for the duration of their three-year program.
Others say they live on charity from family at home and friends abroad, while looking for new jobs to start paying their debts and bills.
Some of them have been told by their universities that their graduation isn’t possible until their debts are paid.
In May, after growing pressure, the agency paid a “take-off” grant of around $1,290. This was an initial payment that was supposed to help the students with their initial visa processing and travelling costs last year.
Some of the students recently held protests at the Nigerian High Commission Office in London. The protesters caught the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari who, on August 4, ordered the NDDC to immediately pay the outstanding sums owed to the students stranded across the globe.
The NDDC promised to pay the fees by the end of that week, adding that the death of the executive director of finance as well as the coronavirus pandemic was responsible for the delay in paying their fees.
However, none of the students CNN spoke to has received their outstanding payment.
CNN has contacted NDDC to find out why the payments to the students have still not been made two weeks after the President’s order. The report says the NDDC has not yet responded to the request for comment.