A group of South Sudanese nationals sent to study in Zimbabwe six years ago are stranded after Juba failed to provide them with air tickets to return home.
The 14 recently graduated from the National University of Science and Technology in Zimbabwe’s second largest city of Bulawayo and they say they are struggling to get food and accommodation.
Makuei Maker Chuny, a spokesperson for the group, said they had tried in vain to get help from the South Sudan embassy in Harare.
“We have been here for six years and the government was supposed to provide us two-way tickets to come to Zimbabwe and to return home,” Mr Chuny said.
“We have used one ticket, that is, coming from South Sudan to Zimbabwe.
“This is a very desperate situation. The university is closing down and there would be no water supply on campus and no electricity.
“Moreover, we used to have a warden here but now there is none. We will be left in the building alone and it is not good for our health.”
Mr Chuny said they received very little support from their government during their studies in Zimbabwe and they now wanted airfares to return to their families.
“We are asking the government of South Sudan to provide us with air tickets as soon as possible,” he added.
“We want to go home. If they don’t buy us air tickets, we are going to occupy the embassy (in Harare). At the embassy it is also not convenient for us.”
The beneficiaries of a presidential scholarship programme say if they are assisted to return home they could contribute to the development of South Sudan after attaining university education.
“We are asking our president (Salva Kiir), who provided us with these scholarships, to help us and he still has the powers to take us back home,” Mr Chuny added.
Officials at the South Sudanese embassy in Harare did not respond to messages seeking comment on the plight of the graduates.
The cheapest air ticket from Harare to Juba is $400.
By press time, seven of the 14 graduates had received air tickets from a well-wisher following the publication of their appeal, local media reported.
However, the graduates are not out of the woods yet because each has to undergo a Covid-19 test for $60 before boarding the Friday flight.
In May, South Sudan was forced to pay $400,000 to Zimbabwean universities that were withholding academic certificates for graduates from that country from as far back as 2019 following the government’s failure to settle the fees on time.
At the time, South Sudan said it owed Zimbabwean institutions $1.6 million.