HUNDREDS of students from Rivers State face the prospect of being deported from the UK over the new state government’s failure to pay their school fees which has made them ineligible to remain within the country.
More than any other state in Nigeria, Rivers State has thousands of pupils studying internationally as former governor Rotimi Amaechi used scholarships as a major plank of his education policy. Every year, his administration sent about 300 students to the UK and Canada on scholarship but with the change of government, it appears that the programme is now under threat.
Governor Nyesom Wike took over as Rivers State governor on May 29 and it appears that like Governor Amaechi before him, he has also failed to remit the fees. As a result, several of the Rivers State students in various universities in the UK face immediate deportation if nothing is done to offset their school fees and other outstanding payments that have accumulated over the years.
Some of the abandoned students, studying at the expense of the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA), gathered at the Nigerian High Commission in London as early as 6 am yesterday to protest the non-payment of their school fees and entitlements.
They claimed that they were facing the risk of deportation from the country because the state government had not paid their fees for over two years now. According to one of the students Kevin Nwoke, 21, an energy engineering student at the University of Huddersfield, his hope of progressing to the third year of his studies is hanging in the balance as the state government had not kept to its promise.
He added that it would be precarious for him if he is deported on September 26 because the possibility of him getting a visa on time to complete his studies may be slim and challenging. Mr Nwoke added: “Some of us are studying bio-chemistry, computer science and energy engineering.
There are more than 200 of such students in different universities that have been neglected for the same reason from my state government, so we are here to see what the high commission can do in this matter.” “Even for me to pay my house rent and feed myself, I have to do some menial and boring jobs, otherwise, I would have been unable to survive.
Sometimes, I get about £400 a month, depending on if there is job but on the average, I get about £150 just to keep up.” He said trouble started for them at the university when the school authorities invited them to a meeting and told them that their sponsors had not been paying their school fees for more than two years.
Acting Nigerian high commissioner to the UK, Ambassador Olukunle Bamgbose, granted the students audience when they visited. “Ambassador Bamgbose showed them letters that have been sent to the Rivers State government and called the secretary to the state government and even placed it on speaker so the students could listen to the conversation.
So hopefully, the meeting with the protesting students and the high commissioner was fruitful to the extent of ensuring that the students complete their studies on time and without further disruptions,” one member of staff at the high commission said.
He added that about 76 students from different universities in UK were at the commission for the same purpose. However, he pointed out that students studying under federal government scholarships were not affected, stating that they were not part of the protest as their fees and entitlements were paid regularly.