What you need to know:
- Angry parents issued an ultimatum to the county government to refund their money or face legal action
- All 202 students from the county who are in three Finland universities — Tampere, Jvaskyla, and Laurea — are facing deportation over non-payment of fees
- The students were airlifted to Finland under the Uasin Gishu Overseas Education programme during the reign of former Governor Jackson Mandago
- A county assembly committee that investigated the scam recommended investigations into the management of the overseas education account for forgery, abuse of office, and lack of integrity
Parents of students facing deportation from Finland over fee arrears have threatened to sue the Uasin Gishu County Government if it does not refund the money they had paid to the devolved unit as fees, and which cannot be accounted for.
The angry parents issued an ultimatum to the county government to refund their money or face legal action, even as it emerged that the county government is this Friday sending 48 more students to Finland under the same study programme it has to sponsor its learners in the European country.
It happened as the county administration pleaded with parents to continue paying school fees for their children in three Finnish universities.
All 202 students from the county who are in three Finland universities — Tampere, Jvaskyla, and Laurea — are facing deportation over non-payment of fees.
The students were airlifted to Finland under the Uasin Gishu Overseas Education programme during the reign of former Governor Jackson Mandago. Under the arrangement, parents were to pay school fees through a trust account, with the county government acting as a guarantor.
It later emerged that some county officials had embezzled the funds, exposing the learners to discontinuation of studies and deportation.
County assembly probe
An ad-hoc committee of the county assembly formed in February to investigate the scam recommended investigations into the management of the overseas education account for forgery, abuse of office, and lack of integrity.
Early this month, Tampere University issued a notice to send home 111 students for defaulting on fee payment, with Laurea and Jvaskyla universities following suit after they gave 91 students up to the end of this month (March) to settle their fees or be kicked out of the country.
Laurea University had put on hold studies for students pursuing nursing and physiotherapy until the tuition fees for the second semester were paid.
On Tuesday, Deputy Governor John Barorot, who also chairs the task force looking into the Finland-Uasin Gishu county programme provided a progress status of
the programme, saying that the county administration has negotiated with three universities to ensure smooth learning.
“All issues have been sorted out for the 48 students and will be flagged off on Friday. We get the reports of the students in Finland daily and they are doing well,” said the deputy governor.
He revealed that a further 56 students are still in Kenya because their visas had been delayed, but they now have them and work permits and need to pay fees for the second semester at Laurea University.
“The students in one of its campuses have already completed one semester (done online learning) and the university is ready to receive them,” said the Deputy governor.
But angry parents who had already paid fees are demanding a refund, narrating how they sold their property to raise the Sh1.19 million each that was required for fees.
“I sold a lot of my property to raise fees and it is frustrating that my child is now facing deportation, yet the devolved unit acted as a guarantor. It should come out clear in the entire process,” said Ms Mary Kiptoo.
Mr Barorot revealed that the administration has negotiated with the three Finnish universities to enable the 202 Kenyan students airlifted under the programme to continue with their studies without a hitch.
“I want to urge parents to continue to pay the fees for their children so that they continue with their studies. We have already negotiated with the three universities and some have issued the March 31st deadline,” said Mr Barorot.
Governor Jonathan Bii has directed senior county officials implicated in the massive loss of funds meant to cover the studies of the 202 students to step aside, pending forensic investigations of the Uasin Gishu Overseas Education Trust Account by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) detectives.
On Monday, the governor had assured parents that none of their children would be deported from the Finland universities, noting that the county had opened another fee payment account to facilitate the smooth learning of the students.
Even with that assurance from the county chief, disgruntled parents want investigations hastened and those implicated in the scam prosecuted.
“What is emerging is that the entire scholarship programme was a cash cow to some county employees who used it to enrich themselves. What we are demanding is that our hard-earned cash is recovered and those responsible be punished,” said Mr Barnabas Murei.
On Tuesday, Mr Barorot said Uasin Gishu county has the highest number of students studying in various universities around the world.
He said 24 physiotherapy students need to pay fees by March 31st to enable them to continue with their studies after the county negotiated with Jvaskyla University.
“At Laurea University, we have 66 physiotherapy and nursing students who have already done one semester,” he said.
The county government has suspended any further recruitment of new students to study abroad until ongoing investigations by EACC are concluded.
Governor Bii said EACC is already probing the programme account at the Kenya Commercial Bank and will make a report and recommendations within 30 days.
The devolved unit has put on hold further overseas education programmes until proper policies are put in place.
“Apart from students who have acquired necessary documentation on similar education programmes, we shall have no fresh engagements with other countries like
Canada until proper policy/framework is established,” said Mr Bii.
The ad-hoc committee of the county assembly has endorsed the recovery of the lost money to support some of the students who are stranded in Finnish universities.
The committee asked the CEO of Maxglobal Group, Mr Cornelius Kiplagat, whose firm acted as a link between the University of Tampere and the Uasin Gishu County Government under the controversial programme to refund Sh267,599.50 he received from the overseas account.
Mr Kiplagat had told the committee that he was promised Sh500,000 as a token of appreciation by Mr Mandago. But the team established that Maxglobal was paid 267,599.50 on July 5, 2022 from the Uasin Gishu Overseas Trust Account.
“The CEO of Maxglobal group should refund the money paid to him out of the Overseas Education Trust account and any other money received as a token and the monies should be deposited in the same account because it is parents’ money,” stated the assembly committee report.
The committee asked KCB to investigate and take necessary action against its staff for professional negligence, for allowing the Uasin Gishu Overseas Education Trust Account to be opened without diligence.
The report reveals that some trustees benefited financially from withdrawals from the account, although they are not entitled to a monetary benefit.