New terms set for Finland, Canada study programme

Mercy Tarus, who is among the students affected by the Finland and Canada airlift study program through Uasin Gishu county government.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Controversy over the botched Finland and Canada overseas education programme took a new twist after the county administration set new terms for students.

Among the conditions is payment of tuition fees for a whole academic year as opposed to per semester, and payment of an additional fee of Sh610,000 exclusive of flight charges and other expenses.

The devolved unit has also signed agreements with the various institutions on how they will host the students and assist them to acquire permits to enable them work for upkeep.

The new arrangements have caused a split among the over 300 students who have been demanding refund of their money after the programme was hit with a scandal. This is after 22 students who met the new conditions left the country over the weekend to join various institutions in the two foreign countries.

Other students say the county government has been reaching out to them individually but they have rejected the new terms and continue to demand for refunds.

“We have not reached any truce with the county government, it is unfortunate for its leadership to mislead the public that we have reached an agreement,” said Mercy Tarus, one of the students.

They told Governor Jonathan Bii that they paid money for the programme when it he had already assumed office and asked him to take responsibility and hasten the process of refunding them.

“We are not ready to hear anything from the county government apart from refund of money. We will not be silenced until our money is refunded,” added Ms Tarus.

The students and their parents have vowed to resume demonstrations from next week as they contemplate taking legal action against the devolved unit. The students are considering moving to the small claims court. Through their lawyer Kevin Kimaru, each complainant will file a suit to compel the programme’s officials to refund the money.

Senator Mandago, along with county officials Meshack Rono, Joseph Maritim and Joshua Lelei have already been charged in a Nakuru court with conspiracy to defraud Sh1.1 billion in relation to the programme.

The county is set to airlift more students under the controversial programme even as it faces challenges of refunding millions to parents who have chosen to pull out. The devolved unit has continued to receive funds from other parents.

Mr Bii and his deputy John Barorot have put on brave faces and appealed to parents and the public to support the programme. Mr Barorot, who chairs the task force formed to review issues surrounding the programme, disclosed that some 46 students secured visas last week to enable them to join various universities in the two foreign countries.

“We have had meetings with many universities about the programme. I had a meeting with the president of Laurea University of Applied sciences on how these 46 will travel for their studies” he said in an earlier interview.

“Parents have paid fees for the first semester through the programme and we are waiting for them to complete payment for the second semester. We have 103 students who want to join universities in Canada and we pray that they get their visas to travel,” he added.

Mr Bii said that they are keen to have the programme continue.

“We didn’t know what direction to take but through the task force we decided to look into the issues. We feel for the parents and students but we would want to see these students continue with their studies. We are hopeful we will find a solution into this matter,” stated Mr Bii.

The devolved unit is also faced with the challenge of recovering over Sh96 million from 322 parents whose children are studying in Finland and Canada. It paid the money for the students to avoid their deportation due to fee arrears.