REPORTS indicate that 14 medical students on the Kano State government’s scholarship scheme in India are in dire straits following the government’s failure to pay their outstanding school fees to the tune of N22 million. They are at the risk of being sent out of that country and returned home without completing their programme. They are among the beneficiaries of the government’s scholarship in universities abroad studying medical and aviation-related courses. The scheme was initiated by the administration of Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso and inherited by the Abdullahi Ganduje administration.
The students’ situation is indeed most pathetic. They are said to be at the final stage of their programme in Medicine in India’s SS Institute of Medical Science and Research Centre (SSIMS and RC), Davagere. Their case is exacerbated by the fact that their future is not just hanging in the balance, but they themselves have been living in precarious conditions in the foreign land, having been abandoned by the government for the past two years. A spokesman for the students, Saminu Sulaiman, lamented: “The disturbing thing about the entire saga is that we are a few weeks to our graduation and the college has excluded our names from the list of graduating students due to the non-payment of outstanding fees of N22million ($59,200). It is so sad and we are really in a serious predicament. For almost two years, we have been abandoned by the state government. There have been no allowances and life has been difficult for us. We did everything to notify the relevant authorities, from the Kano State Scholarship Board to different commissioners, but the issue doesn’t seem important to them.”
To safeguard the future of the affected students, the school authorities had written to the Kano State government twice on the outstanding fees, but no positive action was taken by the government. In one of the letters dated June 28, 2018, the institution warned that the students would be denied the opportunity to sit for the final exams if the fees were not paid. The school authorities unequivocally declared that the students would be barred from “any upcoming internal assessment, examinations and not to issue any certificates for completing the course and graduation.” To underscore its seriousness and determination, the school, in another letter dated January 30 2019, reiterated its earlier decision.
While admitting its failure to meet the financial obligations and commitment to the students, the government, through the Senior Special Assistant on Higher Education to Governor Ganduje, Hussein Jarma, mouthed platitudes, saying that it inherited N10 billion in unpaid tuition fees, out of which it had paid N9 billion. He claimed that the state governor had since approved the balance, which would take care of the beleaguered students studying in India. He added: “We are going to make payment soonest before they start writing their examination.” But the examinations are now over, according to reports.
While we recognise and appreciate that the government faces various challenges in different sectors, it would not be out of place to accord education utmost priority. Human capacity building and development must not be treated with levity; especially not when the government, in its own wisdom, believed that it was better to train those students at a colossal sum abroad rather than conserving scarce resource by making them to undergo such training in higher institutions locally or within the African continent.
The government must act expeditiously on the matter in order to safeguard the future of the students and for the sake of posterity. Their future should not be sacrificed on the altar of partisan and myopic interests. The state stands to gain and benefit immensely from its human capital development. Governance is a continuum; the government must immediately pay up the outstanding school fees. To say the least, it has betrayed the students and shown a lack of integrity and trust. Government must walk the talk at all times.