Finland saga: Parents protest, demand refund of Sh68m in aborted education programme

Finland saga

Parents and their children, affected by the Finland and Canada saga in Uasin Gishu County demonstrate in Eldoret town on August 1, 2023, demanding refund of their money.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya I Nation Media Group

Angry parents and students who paid millions of shillings to the Uasin Gishu County government for the aborted airlift education programme held demonstrations on the streets of Eldoret demanding their money back.

Waving branches and placards reading 'no refund no peace', 'stop peddling lies', 'no refund no devolution conference', 'we don't want stories, we want our money', the rioting protesters rubbished claims by county officials that they had been refunded Sh68 million.

This came after Governor Jonathan Bii, his deputy John Barorot and Senator Jackson Mandago held a crisis meeting on Saturday and called a press conference where they explained how the money received from parents was spent and said some of it had been refunded.

Eldoret Finland scam protests

Angry parents and students who paid millions of shillings to the Uasin Gishu County government in the aborted airlift education program have denied claims that they were refunded some Sh68million under the controversial study deal with Finnish and Canadian universities, putting the county leadership on the spot. They staged protests in Eldoret town on Tuesday, August 8.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Police were forced to barricade the entrance to the Uasin Gishu County headquarters and the county commissioner's office to prevent the protesters from entering the premises as they had planned.

On Saturday, the Uasin Gishu County leadership claimed that some of the parents had since been refunded their money.

But the agitated parents, speaking in Eldoret on Monday night, rejected the leaders' claims of refunds, leading to Tuesday's demonstrations.

"These are students whose payments have been received and are yet to be remitted to the university. Others are students who have applied for visas but whose accommodation and airfares have not been settled," Mr Barorot said in a weekend statement about parents seeking refunds running into millions of shillings.

Mr David Kosgei, whose daughter Gloria Jepchirchir was to travel to Finland to study, said he wanted a full refund immediately.

"We were shocked by what the leaders said about the programme. They had stated that the account had only Sh1.8 million, where did the announced Sh68 million come from? Let it be clear that we are no longer interested in the overseas programme but we need our money back because the universities have since cancelled the studies," he said.

“The money was siphoned through ‘pathway learning’ and payment of agents without our consent and the leaders in charge of the program should be held to account and refund the money,” the parent said.

Pathway was an online learning approach where students who were to go to Finland were taught the Finnish language and basic training in their respective courses.

Mr Kosgei said any meeting called by the county leaders on the issue would be null and void because they were only interested in getting their money back.

Finland study scam protests

Protesting parents kneeling on Eldoret streets on August 1, 2023 demanding a refund of money they paid to the Uasin Gishu county government in the aborted Finland, Canada study program. They have dismissed claims by the county government that they were refunded Sh68million.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

"The planned devolution conference will not take place unless we get our money back. We paid the money without any duress and why is the county being forced to refund us?" he protested, adding that there are over 167 parents demanding a refund.

Ms Eunice Jelagat, who was also mentioned as having received the refund, said she was shocked to hear the deputy governor refer to her during the press briefing.

"I was refunded Sh108,800 out of Sh650,200 I paid for my daughter's trip to Finland in February 2022. To tell me that Pathway studies consumed Sh541, 400 is a joke and I need my money back," she fumed.

Another parent, Mr Edward Kiptek, whose name was also mentioned as having received a refund, accused the county officials of insincerity and abuse.

"I only got Sh640,000 out of Sh2.5 million after going to the deputy governor's office 20 times with my two children to the point of crying. We need our money back, not lies from the county leaders," he said.

Mr Shadrack Juma said he felt robbed of the Sh1.2 million he paid for his daughter, who was discontinued her studies at Egerton University for the Finland programme.

"My daughter is suffering at home, I don't have the money to take her back to Egerton and the county has failed to refund me. This is robbery and there is no language we will listen to other than refund," he said.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) are already investigating the alleged loss of more than Sh38 million in the Finnish Airlift scandal.