EDITORIAL: The Never-Ending Plight of Liberian Students Stranded in Hell

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IT IS BECOMING a recurring nightmare for struggling Liberian students studying in countries around the world. It starts on a hopeful note of a young boy or girl, man or woman, excited about an opportunity to study overseas and improve their way of life. What is becoming an increasing dilemma, is the dashed hopes that often follow these failed opportunities.

FROM EGYPT to Morocco, to China, the stories are becoming increasingly endless as more and more young Liberians find themselves in strange lands without food and shelter all because their government has failed to live up to its end of the bargain.

SINCE 2014, the Government of Liberia, in partnership with the Government of Morocco, has made available 35 scholarships in public Moroccan institutions of higher education for undergraduate studies beginning each  academic year. Scholarships are for studies in nursing, medicine, geology, civil engineering, architecture, Computer Science, maternal health, and child health. Their aim is to give a unique opportunity to Liberians to strengthen their skills and expose them to best practices and training in Morocco.

SIMILARLY, the Government, in partnership with the Chinese Government, has in the past few years been offering opportunities for Liberians to benefit from scholarships in the following fields: Electrical Engineering, Structural Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Mining Engineering, Geotechnical Engineering and Architectural Engineering, GIS(Geo-Information Production and Management, GIS Land Resource Management, GIS-Soil Survey and Agriculture Management, Agriculture, GIS in Survey and Geodesy), Public Health, Computer Science/Programming, Civil Engineering, Education, Development Studies, and Geology. Scholarships are available for MASTERS AND PhDs at Chinese universities. The scholarships are for 2 years, beginning in 2019. Their aim is to give a unique opportunity to Liberians to strengthen their skills and expose them to best practices and training in China.

SIMILAR OPPORTUNITIES have come from Egypt and some European countries where these countries offer the scholarships with Liberia the burden of providing stipends or allowances and money for housing and feeding. 

SADLY, THE COMMON thread in all of these situations have been the aftermath of these students landing in these countries.

QUITE RECENTLY, some 26 Liberian students stranded in China complained about that they were lacking daily needs due to the undue delay by the Liberian government to remit the over 8 months living allowance.

THEY HAD TRAVELED to China as part of a bilateral agreement between the government of Liberia and China. As per the bilateral agreement between the government of Liberia and China, the Chinese government is providing a full tuition waiver and accommodation while the government of Liberia is to provide the students with their monthly living allowance.

TODAY, THE STUDENTS are struggling to survive as the government is reneging to live up to its part of the agreement for the past 8 months. Currently, it is prohibited for students studying in China to do any form of part-time jobs, the students are left with no other option to meet their daily needs but to appeal to the government of Liberia to pay their over 8 months living allowance due them. The situation has led to student risking their scholarship to seek undercover part-time jobs, if caught by the Chinese authorities, their scholarship would be canceled immediately and they could be deported.

MORE THAN A DECADE of civil war created a brain drain for Liberia as nearly an entire generation lost the opportunity at quality education. 

PRIOR TO THE CIVIL WAR, students from neighboring West African nations saw Liberia as a haven for education. Today, the table has turned with many parents lacking the resources and access to quality education. 

MOST OF THE ELEMENTARY, primary, high schools and even universities lack the proper mechanisms for students to learn.

AS A RESULT, we are witnessing an influx of Liberian students eager to learn and jumping at every opportunity to travel outside the shores of Africa’s oldest republic in search of better educational opportunities.

THE END RESULTS have not  been pretty.

IN 2015, Twenty-five Liberian students in Egypt prevailed on the Ministry of Education and the Inter-Ministerial Scholarship Committee at the Civil Service Agency (CSA) to restore their allowances which were cut off in 2011.

THE STUDENTS had earned the scholarship through the Ministry of Education and were vetted by both GOL and the Egyptian Embassy in Monrovia to undertake undergraduate studies at Egyptian universities in Cairo, in 2011.

QUITE RECENTLY, Liberians studying in Morocco have been undergoing similar issues.

LAUNCHING AN APPEAL to President George Manneh Weah, the students complain that they have been thrown out of their apartments due to lack of rent payments, and have gone nine months without allowances.

MANY OF THESE students topped the West African Examinations Council Exams and could very well be the future leaders of Liberia. But here they are in need of the basic necessities including rent, books, transportation and feeding.

THE LACK of these basic necessities has led to some students falling ill and falling into a state of depression.

REGARDLESS of tribe, religion, political affiliations or class, these students represent Liberia and their plight reflects on the country as a whole. Allowing them to continue to linger in obscurity and neglect is a testament to how Liberia treats its people.

THE GOVERNMENT through the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of State have two options here: Make the necessary arrangements to have those students return home or shut off all learning opportunities with these countries. 

IT IS ONE THING to declare as accomplishments, the provision of scholarships for needy students by leaders of the day but another thing to simply ignore those very students when it is time for the government to deliver on its part of the bargain.

AS ONE OF THE STUDENTS, posted on Facebook this week. “Scholarship is not hardship. Government, please see reason and send our allowances. We strive like pregnant women for the nine months, with broken pens and crayons; we have studied, pass, graduated and competed with other international students, in spite of empty stomach, torn books, sticking pen and bad health.”

THE TRAGEDY of these abandoned students speaks volumes about the missed opportunities and twisted priorities of a nation on the brinks of an economic decline. We cannot and should not allow these students to wander in abject poverty in strange lands. We owe it to Liberia’s reputation to do the right thing before we begin to see our own citizens returning home in body bags as a result of this never-ending saga. 

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