“My son had a better job working as a nurse aide in Kenya. He regretted going to Finland.”
Those were Mr Jonathan Kosgei’s words, upon the tragic demise of his son Mr Rodgers Kipruto who is reported to have died by suicide in Finland out of frustration.
Mr Kipruto was among the 202 students from Uasin Gishu County who were airlifted to Finland on a controversial study programme deal between the county government and three universities in the foreign country- Laurea, Jyvaskylla, and Tampere universities.
The programme has been riddled with controversy after the Kenyan students ended up being stranded in a foreign country over fee arrears.
In the arrangement, parents were to remit their children’s fees through a county government account, and county officials would then settle the fees, with the devolved unit acting as guarantors.
Watch: Uasin Gishu administration distances itself from Finland education scam
The 26-year-old took his life, citing frustrations in the foreign nation, following the stand-off between the county government and parents on modalities of settling the fee arrears to enable him to continue with his studies.
He was a student at Laurea University, which reportedly discontinued studies of the Kenyan students and threatened to deport them over fee arrears.
“My brother led a frustrated life after Laurea University terminated their studies in March after completing his first semester. Although he received support from Kenyan friends at the university and family at home, he was at his lowest point due to the high expectations he held when he joined the university,” divulged the elder brother to Mr Kipruto, Mr Boniface Kemboi.
Laurea University had put on hold studies for students pursuing nursing and physiotherapy until the tuition fees for the second semester are paid.
Mr Kipruto had complained a lot of the suffering in the foreign land, his family revealed to Nation.Africa on Thursday at their Chirchir farm in Kesses, Uasin Gishu County.
Read: Scholarship scam: Finland varsity threatens to kick out students
He had enrolled for a degree in nursing after quitting his job as a nurse at a Nakuru Level-five Hospital. The deceased was the third born in a family of six. His decision to take his life took his family and friends by surprise.
“At some point, my son said he had a better job while in Kenya, working as a nurse aid at Nakuru Level 5 Hospital, and Mediheal Hospital and Fertility Centre in Nakuru. He regretted going to Finland,” his father told Nation.Africa.
Once in Finland, students on the programme had been promised study and work, with successful ones being guaranteed stable employment upon completion of their courses. It was a promised life-changing opportunity.
Mr Kemboi, the elder brother to Mr Kipruto recounted his last moments with the deceased, moments before he died by suicide.
According to the family, Mr Kipruto was a cleaner at a Finland mall and relied on this to survive in the foreign country.
Mr Kemboi disclosed that his brother had sought menial work for upkeep and occasionally depended on support from the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) church in Finland where he was a member.
“It took time before we realized that our brother was suffering from severe depression in the foreign land. It is only after he shared a number of a family member with his friend Daniel from Elgeyo Marakwet that he confided in us what was going on,” said Mr Kemboi.
He added: “Through the conversation with Daniel, the family managed to send him Sh50,000 for upkeep and that was a turning point as he started sharing the difficulties he was undergoing abroad.”
Read: More Finnish varsities threaten to deport 91 Kenyan students over study scam
The amount was sent in instalments; Sh20,000 was sent on January 3 while Sh30,000 was sent on February 26.
“My son died due to depression,” his father said at their Kesses home. He spoke with a lot of difficulties, fighting tears that rolled down his cheeks effortlessly- the pain so evident. Mourners had gathered at the home to mourn with the family.
“My son has died, I don't want other people's children to follow,” said Mzee Kosgei, with the family now seeking help to bring the body of their kin back home.
“Parents please find a way of getting your children out of Finland. I beseech, don’t wait to have your children come home in coffins,” he pleaded.
He had spoken to his son days before his tragic decision.
“I spoke to my son. He told me hapa iko shida (there is a problem here), but I will survive,” he narrated to Nation. Africa when we visited the home on Thursday.
“I just plead with the county government to bring the body back. From there if they refuse to assist in burial experiences, the community will assist me bury,” said Mzee Kosgei.
Plea to President
The family has urged President William Ruto to intervene. “They just take our children to Finland and dump them there,” Mzee Kosgei lamented.
Mzee Kosgei’s family had invested a lot in his training at Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC). With a foreign land offering room for opportunity, they did not anticipate the tragic turn of events.
“Someone is playing with our children's lives,” Mzee Kosgei said.
The deceased’s elder brother said the county government should move swiftly to bring his body home so that they can give him a decent send-off. They have been informed of the possibility of the Finnish government disposing of the body if there are delays in claiming it.
According to Mr Kemboi, their kin was paid some Sh60,000 from the job as a cleaner and it became difficult to meet his personal needs as well as settle college fees and accommodation.
The money had enabled him and a friend to secure an apartment that was going for Sh18,000 up from the previous one that cost Sh13,000 per month.
“My brother’s main worry was how our struggling parents would raise his university tuition fees considering that he was employed back at home and was expected to raise monies for his studies and upkeep,” he stated.
His parents had settled Sh150,000 and were in the process of raising another Sh500,000 by next Monday to pay fees to enable him to continue with his studies.
“It was only on Tuesday morning when I last, talked with him, but he complained that he was feeling unwell. He was feeling fatigued and had pain in the joints. He later sought medical attention at a nearby health facility but the diagnosis did not show any ailment,” added Mr Kemboi.
They only learned about the sad news of his demise from a woman popularly known as ‘Mama Kenya Finland’ who called them, and later friends confirmed the tragic incident.
Read: No student will be deported from Finland, Governor Bii promises
“Some neighbours and friends had learned about the incident as early as Tuesday evening, but they kept it secret until 6 am Wednesday when they came home and shared the sad news before it was circulated on social media platforms,” he revealed.
On Thursday, family members, relatives, and friends gathered at their Chrichir farm in Kesses, Uasin Gishu County as they discussed the next move.
Mr Kipruto's mother Ms Leah Kosgei said President Ruto should intervene to have all the students in Finland under the Uasin Gishu county government study arrangement brought back home.
“Let my son be the last to suffer and die in this manner. He complained a lot, but said they were all struggling as a team,” she said.
“We were deceived into paying 70 per cent of the fees, which is Sh950,000 out of Sh1.2 million, and that the remaining 30 per cent would be paid by students who will be studying and working at the same time. Only to find out later that classes were on full-time for the first seven months,” her husband said.
Today, more parents with students in Finland are expected to join the Kosgei family to mourn with them.
“Come and hear their stories you will be shocked. We have single mothers who sold almost everything to send their children to Finland with the hope of getting a better life. They are now crying because they have nothing else to sell to maintain the children there,” Mzee Kosgei said.
The parents have promised to reveal the full details of what awaited them in the study deal that was kept a secret by cartels- whose results are now showing.
A team from the county government has already visited the home to mourn with the family, but the matter is now being handled by the homicide department from the Finnish government, said Mr Kemboi.
“We are still waiting for communication from the homicide department, Kenyan Embassy in Helsinki, Finland, Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs, and county government,” Kemboi said.
Read: Finnish airlift scandal: Senior county officials sent on compulsory leave as investigations commence
The Finland-Uasin Gishu student airlift programme was initiated by former county governor and now senator Jackon Mandago, and has been under public scrutiny for the last three months.
The Uasin Gishu County Government recently issued a statement confirming the fee arrears controversy, with the management of Tampere University threatening to expel the students and have them deported unless they settled their fees on deadlines.
A report from a Uasin Gishu county assembly committee shows that 111 of the 202 students are at Tampere University, 25 at Jyvaskyla University, and 66 at Laurea University.
The students were required to pay 8,650 Euros, an equivalent to Sh1.19 million in school fees, Sh80,000 accommodation fees for three months, Sh30,000 insurance fee, Sh49,000 for a visa, Sh5,000 for a Covid-19 test and 100,000 for their flights.
The total payment for 166 students enrolled for a three and half year degree nursing course spread in the three universities –Laurea, Jyvaskylla, and Tampere was Sh640.3 million as per exchange rate of Sh129.70 against the Euro in 2021.