What you need to know:
- More than 200 Elgeyo Marakwet students are in Finland training in nursing and in applied sciences at several universities
- Governor Rotich has tasked the investigation team to confirm claims that the placement agency that airlifted the students to Finland had inflated the fee to almost twice the amount
- The team will also investigate why it has taken over one year to airlift 23 students who paid the fees
The county government, under former governor Alex Tolgos partnered with Tampere university to send students to Finland
As Uasin Gishu county struggles to redeem itself from a scandalous Finland student airlift programme, it has emerged that neighbouring Elgeyo Marakwet county is also facing a similar challenge.
Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Wisley Rotich has formed a 11-member task force to investigate the Finland Scholarship Programme, under which hundreds of students from the county studying in Finland now risk deportation over failure to pay fees, just like their Uasin Gishu counterparts.
It follows a statement by Tampere University of Applied Sciences that the institution had terminated its cooperation agreement with Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo Marakwet counties on March 1 due to unpaid tuition and accommodation fees.
The university, as a precaution following fee payment default by Uasin Gishu County students, asked students from Elgeyo Marakwet to pay their second semester fees in full by March 31, instead of May, or have their studies discontinued.
In a letter dated March 7, 2023, the university asked the affected students to liaise with their parents to ensure that their tuition and accommodation fees are paid by March 31, with no possibility of an extension.
More than 200 Elgeyo Marakwet students are already in Finland training in nursing and in applied sciences at several universities. Under the programme, the students also work while studying, and are placed in jobs afterwards.
However, the fee payment hitches have threatened to derail the programme.
In Uasin Gishu county, 202 students who were airlifted to study in three universities in Finland are facing deportation over fee arrears, even though parents had paid the money into a pooled trust fees account where the county government acted as guarantor. It has since been confirmed, following an investigation by a county assembly committee that county officials in charge of the programme did not remit the money to the universities as intended.
In Elgeyo Marakwet, like Uasin Gishu, the county government also acted as guarantor.
The governor has tasked the investigation team to confirm claims that the placement agency that also airlifted the students to Finland had inflated the fee to almost twice the amount. The team will also investigate why it has taken over one year to airlift 23 students who paid the fees.
On Wednesday, Mr Rotich convened a consultative meeting with concerned parents at the county’s Iten headquarters and said the administration has put in place modalities to ensure the programme continues.
“Today we met parents with continuing students and those yet to proceed to Finland and have paid school fees for their students and gave them my administration assurance about the continuity of the programme. I am assuring you the children will not be deported,” he said.
The investigation team will be led by Education Executive Edwin Kibor and is expected to look into the status of all students studying in Finland.
The team will also find out the amount of money spent by parents to send the students to Finland and what had necessitated delay of some of the students who would have flown to Finland last year, as well as the inconsistency in fee payment.
“I can assure you (parents) that your children are safe. We are making necessary arrangements for the students to continue with their learning. There has been a misunderstanding between the institutions and the parents,” the governor stated.
Mr Samson Kiplagat, an affected parent, said despite paying the requisite fees, his child is yet to go to Finland to begin the studies.
“It has been a year after I paid and as of today, we wonder if they will still join Tampere. We need answers,” he protested.
In June 2020, former area Governor Alex Tolgos issued admission letters to 25 students who joined Tampere University of Applied Sciences in Finland.
The county government partnered with the university to send the students to Finland to study courses leading to degrees in nursing and healthcare.
As a result of the partnership, the university gave the students a reduction in fees.
The county also entered into an agreement with Tampere City, that would see students offered part time jobs as they study, to enable them to pay their fees and upkeep.
“You are the pioneers of this partnership and I want you to go to Finland and do our county and your parents proud. This will pave way for other students who will come after you. Please be our good ambassadors,” the former governor had said then.
In May 2022, Mr Tolgos flagged off a second group of 100 students to join Tampere University and another group to Tredu University.
Sixteen of them were to join University of Helsinki to undertake a degree course in nursing and 25 have been listed for diploma in practical nursing taking at Tampere university.
Fifty students were to head to Tredu University for nursing programmes.