What you need to know:
- EACC has since launched investigations into the alleged loss of Sh800 million in the Uasin Gishu-Finnish students Airlift scandal
- One of the students- Rodgers Kipruto, died by suicide last week
- Rodgers had been depressed and unwell since last October, and complained about hardship in the foreign land
- He left Kenya for the foreign country on October 30, 2022.
- His family has appealed for help to bring his body back home
Revelations of Kenyan students depressed in Finland after being shortchanged in the controversial study programme hatched by the Uasin Gishu government have come to the fore following the death by suicide of one of them last week.
It has since emerged that Rodgers Kipruto, who had enrolled for a nursing degree at Laurea University, was desperate to return to Kenya and had planned to do so between January and February due to the difficult times he had experienced in Finland.
However, friends discouraged him from returning home and persuaded him to stay, prompting him to cancel the plan, a Kenyan student on the controversial Finland programme revealed to Nation.Africa.
"Many students are severely depressed due to financial constraints and pressure to meet their daily obligations," reads a text message shared by one of the students on the controversial programme with three Finnish universities.
Some students have complained that they were deceived into thinking they would be employed as nurses and that their studies would take a year.
Left jobs in Kenya
Most of them regret that they left their jobs at home to pursue the Finnish dream of greener pastures, only to end up suffering in a foreign land.
The controversial study programme agreement between the Uasin Gishu County government and the universities of Laurea, Jyvaskylla and Tampere has come under scrutiny, with the county assembly initiating several actions against those involved. The programme was launched during the administration of former Uasin Gishu governor Jackson Mandago, who has remained silent on the controversy.
The tragic death of Rodgers, one of the 202 students who were flown to Finland on the study arrangement with the help of the Uasin Gishu County government, confirmed fears of the suffering Kenyan students go through in a foreign country.
Some of the students, who spoke on condition of anonymity, admitted that although studies had resumed after being suspended for two weeks due to fee arrears, life in a foreign country was no picnic.
"The struggle here is real. Most of us have to rely on support from home to keep going, against the expectation that we would study and work at the same time, with a guarantee of stable employment at the end of our courses," said another student.
Once in Finland, students on the programme were promised to study and work, with the successful ones guaranteed stable employment upon completion of their courses. It was a promised life-changing opportunity, but it was not to be.
The Nation understands that Rodgers has been depressed and unwell since October last year.
"We have been through a lot... Rodgers has been depressed and unwell since October last year. We were supposed to go back to Kenya with him earlier this year, but he was convinced by his friends and cancelled the flight," said a student in Finland.
"But depression is real out there, I thank God I have very understanding and supportive parents, maybe I would be the victim now," he said.
Students complained that they had been promised that they would be employed as nurses and that their studies would last a year.
"Life is hell out here. I wish the county government had told us the truth. We quit well-paying permanent and pensionable (PnP) jobs in Kenya thinking we were going as nurses as promised by the county government," the student said.
He revealed that they were told we would complete the course in one year, only to be shocked on arrival when they were told the course would take two and a half years.
"The county had only paid our fees for the first semester and accommodation for four months, but we had paid a fee for a whole year and six months of accommodation," said another student at Laurea University of Applied Sciences.
Students interviewed complained that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other state agencies had failed to address their plight despite previous visits by officials.
"We have received the Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs and the Kenyan Ambassador to the Nordic countries based in Sweden in the past and presented our problems and issues but nothing happened," another student lamented.
The Finnish airlift programme was mired in controversy after the Kenyan students were stranded abroad due to fee arrears.
Under the scheme, parents were supposed to transfer their children's fees through a county government account and county officials would then settle the fees, with the devolved unit acting as guarantor.
Parents sold property
Parents interviewed by Nation.Africa revealed how they had sold property, including land, to pay for their children's education abroad.
"I have struggled to pay over Sh1 million for my child to study in Finland. Unfortunately, I am being asked to pay additional money," complained Alice Yego, one of the parents.
"I have to pay an additional Sh550,000 for the second semester and accommodation fee," said Ms Yego, whose daughter was already a trained nurse.
These sentiments were echoed by another parent, Abraham Chesiror, who admits that they have to dig deep into their pockets to meet their children's educational needs abroad.
"What I know is that it is hard for our children while many of us have sold a lot of property to pay for school fees and accommodation among other things," said Mr Chepsiror.
Rodgers' tragic death followed a standoff between the county government and parents over how to settle fee arrears so that students from Uasin Gishu could continue their studies.
Laurea University, where he was a student, reportedly suspended the Kenyan students' studies and threatened to deport them over fee arrears.
"My brother led a frustrated life after Laurea University terminated his studies in March after he completed his first semester. Although he had support from Kenyan friends at the university and family back home, he was at his lowest point because of the high expectations he had when he joined the university," the elder brother, Mr Boniface Kemboi, told Mr Kipruto.
Hardship in foreign land
He said his brother had complained a lot about the hardships in the foreign land, his family revealed to Nation.Africa at their Chirchir farm in Kesses, Uasin Gishu County.
Rodgers left Kenya for the foreign country on October 30, 2022.
He had enrolled for a nursing degree after quitting his job as a nurse at a level five hospital in Nakuru. He was the third born in a family of six.
His decision to take his own life took his family and friends by surprise.
"At some point, my son said he had a better job in Kenya working as a nurse aide at Nakuru Level 5 Hospital and Mediheal Hospital and Fertility Centre in Nakuru. He regretted going to Finland," said Jonathan Kosgei.
The Uasin Gishu County government has suspended senior officials implicated in the scam and announced several measures to rescue students facing deportation after their studies were terminated due to fee arrears.
Governor Jonathan Bii ordered the suspension of the officials pending investigations into the Uasin Gishu Overseas Education Trust Account by detectives from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).
"The trust fund officials involved in the loss of funds must step aside to allow EACC investigators to conduct a forensic audit and take action against those responsible for the mess," Mr Bii said.
County officials on the spot
An ad-hoc committee of the County Assembly formed in February to investigate the scam recommended that the managers of the Overseas Education Account be investigated for forgery, abuse of office and integrity.
They include Mr Joseph Maritim - former Principal Officer in the Department of Youth and Sports and Principal Trustee, Mr Joel Ruto, Director of the Uasin Gishu County Education Revolving Fund and Trustee, Mr Meshack Rono - Deputy Director of the Uasin Gishu County Revolving Fund and Trustee, among others.
The EACC has since launched investigations into the alleged loss of Sh800 million in the Finnish Airlift scandal, as parents of students facing deportation over fee arrears demanded their money back from the county government.
EACC detectives are on the trail of over Sh38 million withdrawn by the signatories of the Uasin Gishu Overseas Education Trust, a week after Governor Jonathan Bii ordered senior county officials implicated in the massive loss of funds meant to fly 202 students to three Finnish universities to step aside pending investigations into the loss of funds.
"The commission is investigating the Sh38,533,789.00 that was withdrawn in cash in Kenya by the signatories of the Uasin Gishu Overseas Education Trust. As for the funds that were remitted to Finland, EACC is conducting a thorough and comprehensive investigation to ascertain whether the money reached the institutions or was misappropriated," the agency's report said.
According to the report, a total of Sh837,855,889.76 was deposited into the account between August 2021 and March 2022 to enable 111 students to enrol for degree and diploma courses at various universities and colleges in the European country.
"The Uasin Gishu Overseas Education Trust Scholarship bank account was opened on 21.05.2021 and parents were supposed to deposit the school fees," EACC said in the report, adding that the signatories to the bank account, who are Uasin Gishu County government officials, were involved in the misappropriation of the funds.
According to the report, the three signatories withdrew Sh38,533,789.00 from the foreign account and were supposed to transfer the money to Tampere University of Applied Sciences.