The Persistent Pain of Nigerian Scholarship Students Abroad, By Odukoya Oluwadara James

I wish to make the general public know that my colleagues and I are totally fed up of facing the same struggle year in, year out, especially when this only gets worse. We sincerely aren’t oblivious of the economic situation back in the country but we still believe that a lot more could be done for us.

Exactly three years ago, I landed in Russia, full of hope and poised for rigorous academic activity. My passion was largely fueled by the uniqueness of the opportunity being offered and sustained by the hope of its fulfilment through the promise of financial support made by the Nigerian government. Sadly, I did not consider the possibility that the Nigerian government would become unyielding on its part, as promised. It was not long before my naivety and ignorance were totally exposed. I was made to see in a few months the great task ahead of me – of waiting almost endlessly for my entitlements of living expenses to be remitted to me. I remember vividly how in August 2014, after enduring a really long wait of about twelve months, our monthly stipends were finally paid. But the good news then was that all the arrears owed were delivered on. Although it wasn’t the best case scenario, many of my colleagues and I had little choice but to resign to that.

However, the times have changed – for the worse. The year 2015 saw the Federal Scholarship Board, the Federal Government or those in charge of catering for scholarship students devise strange ways of avoiding their responsibility to us. They devised a pattern of ensuring that we were perpetually owed our living expenses. In previous times, the prevailing excuse was that of the yet-to-be signed or implemented budget, and this narrative was quite believable because immediately this aforementioned condition was satisfied, our funds found their way to our respective bank cards a few months thereafter.

Nowadays, the Board hardly sees any reason to substantiate whatever claims they make concerning the non-remittance of our stipends (that is if any claim is even made.) To quote the words of a colleague, “They pay us whenever they want, whatever they want.” In November 2015, we were finally paid for five (January to May) of the eleven months we were owed. Nothing was heard again until April 2016 when the payment of another five months (June to October 2015) was remitted. We were literally quiet this whole time because as the Nigerian spirit encourages, we were hopeful that the situation would improve. Yet, the people in charge of our welfare do not share the same hope. They seem to be really bent on making us go through harder times.

…we are sending this message out, clearly reiterating that we are SCHOLARS (highly achieving ones), not BEGGARS, and the government should consider treating us much more fairly. We, in no way, take this rare privilege that has been handed us for granted but all we ask is for a chance to make the best use of it.

This is September 2016 and these individuals up there are preparing to pay us a meagre amount for the first three months of this year, completely neglecting the arrears of two months from the previous year. No one needs to be persuaded that this is completely unacceptable. A new academic session has kicked off; accommodation and feeding must be catered for, visas renewed, and this is the nature of treatment we still receive. For quite a while now, many of us have barely been able to eat.

The interesting thing is that very soon a new set of students would be sent here again to face the same set of issues. And the cycle continues, leading to so many questions. I will not be shocked to find out that this meagre allowance being prepared would only be paid because it would be unheard of that new students are brought in while the old ones have not been attended to in a very long while.

I wish to make the general public know that my colleagues and I are totally fed up of facing the same struggle year in, year out, especially when this only gets worse. We sincerely aren’t oblivious of the economic situation back in the country but we still believe that a lot more could be done for us. And this is why we are sending this message out, clearly reiterating that we are SCHOLARS (highly achieving ones), not BEGGARS, and the government should consider treating us much more fairly. We, in no way, take this rare privilege that has been handed us for granted but all we ask is for a chance to make the best use of it.

Odukoya Oluwadara James is a student at the Samara State Aerospace University in Russia under the Bilateral Education Agreement (BEA) scholarship scheme.

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