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Students on government scholarship face hardship

BY: Donald Ato Dapatem
Students on government scholarship face hardship
Students on government scholarship face hardship

More than 1,000 Ghanaian students studying on government scholarships in about 20 countries have been blocked out of their school portals due to failure to pay their fees and stipends.

They are part of about 2,000 students on government scholarship in various countries, all of whom have also not received their tuition fees.

Students in schools that do not require to pay tuition fees are, however, allowed to participate in academic activities.

They, however, suffer from the absence of their subsistence allowance.

Some of the students who spoke with the Daily Graphic yesterday said they were now faced with threats of deportation, especially those studying in Germany, because they had not renewed their permits, which could be done on the payment of stipends.

The stipends guarantee that they are supported to continue their education.

Those affected are those whose scholarships require the payment of school fees.

Being out of school online portals means they cannot participate in lectures or submit assignments.

“Please, let the government know that we are getting to a point where the German police have threatened to remove us by force for deportation,” one of the students pleaded in an interview with the Daily Graphic.

The Ghana Scholarships Coordinator for the Schengen States, Joseph Djaba, and the President of the Ghana Students Association in Hungary, Gabriel Asante, confirmed the story in separate interviews with the Daily Graphic.

The Daily Graphic gathered that in countries that offered free tuition, the students were attending lectures, but they had to work for about 40 hours a week, beyond the stipulated 24 hours a week, to make enough money to top up for their accommodation and feeding.

Others who were unable to secure jobs or receive money from their parents and relatives from Ghana said they were going hungry and also had to be living with (perching) friends and mates.

Studying in over 20 countries, mostly in Europe and Asia, the students are reading programmes ranging from first to doctor of philosophy (PhD) degrees and receive between $300 and $500 per year for their books, which is usually paid in the last quarter of the year.

They also receive between $250 and $500 monthly as their stipend, supposed to be paid regularly from the beginning of the academic year.

Menial jobs

Most of the students said they had to resort to all forms of menial and dangerous jobs, at the expense of their education, just to make ends meet.

Mr Djaba said some of the students had been locked out of the school online system for both lectures and assignments because they had not paid their school fees, while they were at the same time being threatened with deportation.

He said he had been pleading with officials of the schools, especially those in Germany, France, Norway, The Netherlands and Poland, that the government would soon release funds, but added that the patience of the officials seemed to be running out.

He said the fees should have been paid by January, this year for the students and at the same time receive their stipends to be able to secure resident permits.

“I have received several distress calls from students, some of whom were in tears narrating their ordeal in the affected countries, especially those whose tuition needs to be paid by the government of Ghana,” Mr Djaba said.

SOS appeal

In what he referred to as “urgent SOS appeal to the government”, Mr Asante said from January to June 2022, the government had not sent anything for the students on Ghana government scholarship.

He indicated that although the beneficiaries of the scholarship were not paying school fees like the others in Germany and the rest, they relied solely on the stipend from Ghana to buy school materials, feed themselves, among others.

Mr Asante cited the case of Budapest, where some of the students could not get accommodation because the 40,000 zloty (about GH¢800) they received from the Polish government to pay for rent was not enough to do so.

He explained that such Ghanaian students used part of their stipends as top-up to meet their rent.

“Because the stipend has not been coming in the last six months, some of the students have been thrown out of their accommodation. We cannot have peace of mind to even study and there are indications that the academic performance of Ghanaian students can deteriorate,” Mr Asante noted.

When contacted, the Registrar of the Ghana Scholarships Secretariat, Kingsley Agyemang, confirmed that the tuition fees and the stipends of the students on government scholarship for 2021/2022 had not been paid and empathised with the beneficiaries.

He gave an assurance that the secretariat was working with Ministry of Finance to expedite action on the payment of the fees and the stipends, so that the students would have the peace of mind to pursue their studies.