More Liberian Students Depart for Morocco, but Parents Could Pay for Stay
Monrovia – The Liberian Government has sent 16 additional students to study in Morocco, with their relatives allegedly agreeing to foot some of the bills should the government find it difficult to pay.
The 16 students departed the country sometime last week via Royal Air Moroc.
Liberia and the Kingdom of Morocco’s bilateral scholarship agreement, which has existed for over 50 years, is geared towards educating Liberians students in higher education disciplines. Under the agreement, Morocco is to provide institutions for Liberia students to enable them study in variety of fields, while Liberia’s part is to evaluate students, provide their homes, feeding, transportation, bills, school materials, health insurance, etc.
Presently, there are at least 70 students studying at various universities in that North African country.
Minister of Education Prof. Ansu Sonii on Wednesday, January 15, told FrontPageAfrica in an exclusive interview that the arrangement with parents and relatives was meant to keep the students in school.
“We spoke with the parents and told them the government was going to be responsible for the full scholarship but if in any case the government delays in sending the funds for their children, the parents should assist in sending fund to their children.
“If any parent, who could not afford to assist [their] kids, should not bother to send their children to Morocco,” he said. According to the Minister, all the parents agreed to the condition.
“We also told them in case the need arises and the government cannot send the funds, we would tell them to send money to their kids,” Minister Sonii added.
He, however, stressed that they told parents that until they (parents) are told to send money, they should not bother sending money.
A student, who also spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said the government did not just tell their parents about the situation, but made parents sign a commitment to support their children and any parent who didn’t sign, that parent’s child would be dropped from the scholarship.
“An averaged Liberian parents cannot afford to send US$300 every month for their child. This is the least money a student will need to cover living and schooling expenses,” the student said in a mobile phone interview.
“Not even US$200 can help yet many of these parents committed to sponsoring their children because they were ill-fed with information from the Ministry. The realities might surface in their faces soon.”
According to this student, who has been in that country for a while now, the government reduced allowances from US$450 to US$300 per quarter after they had protested before the Liberian Embassy in Rabat, Morocco.
Last year, a video of the protest went viral on social media, showing scholarship students being flogged by Moroccan police as they protested for delayed three-quarter allowance they claimed the government owed them.
They further claimed that they were evicted from their rented apartments and university dormitories, and could no longer afford transport fares. Some held placards brandishing: “Scholarship is not hardship”; “Save the scholars…” and “We are starving.”
But Minister Sonii urged the students not to panic, refuting claims that students were thrown out of their living quarters last year. “Even though the government had delayed in sending the fund on time to the students but the Moroccan government paid each student US$150 after every two months as part of their bilateral commitment; so they had money, but just because we had not sent our share of their scholarship money, they decided to take matters into their hands,” Minister Sonii said.
He said the students’ claim that students were unable to return to Liberia after their studies because the government had refused to pay their travel costs was untrue.
“The government told the students whenever they were finished with their studies and wanted to return, all they needed to do was request to return home and the government would send the plane ticket for them to return.”
Minister Sonii added that many of the students who took part in the protest last year were students who had completed their four-year studies and stayed to do their Master’s without the consent of the government. He said the government recently awarded two medical students specialization studies after they returned home and requested to go back.
One of the students, who participated in the protest told FrontPageAfrica that they were bracing for a worse experience this year following the arrival of the 16 additional students.
“Their suffering is loading,” the student told this newspaper in a mobile phone chat from Rabat.
“These new students will definitely catch the bad times. I am just worried about them. We (old scholarship students) are already used to the hardship.”