In Kursk, Russia, two dozen Bayelsa State medical students, in the country on government scholarship, are outraged, citing the egregious neglect and abandonment they have faced at the hands of the Bayelsa State Government.
For 14 months, the students have not received their allotted tuition fees and stipend money, an issue that has crippled their academic pursuits. Throughout these months, students have been denied of allowances for books, medical and health necessities, even for winter clothing and coats during the -20 degree Kursk winters.
Despite phone calls, letters, visits, and more to the scholarship board, The Bayelsa State House of Assembly, The Governor of Bayelsa state, The Ministry of Education, and the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, the students have received nothing: no funding, no response, and no answers. As September approaches, these students have been told they will not be able to resume classes without the required funds.
"For a very long time now we have been going through really difficult financial situations and mentally challenging conditions due to non-payment of our tuition fees and 14 months without stipends," Amadanyo Ayebapreye Francis, a fifth year medical student, told SaharaReporters. "We have also tried to reach our state through the embassy of Nigeria in Moscow twice, first in February 2014, and just recently, July 14, 2014."
The students, all in their third to fifth years as medical students, were actually told by the chairman of the Bayelsa State Scholarship Board, Evang. Hon. Foster Ogola, that they would be sent home if they continue to protest or complain. The chairman further decided to withhold allowances from for the students in three chief areas:
- Summer practice, which would enable them to "be familiar with the practice in Nigeria and get acquainted with the associated pathologies and also help to get new passports because our present passports [which expire in 2014].
- Clinical practice, which would enable them to "buy the requirements for their third year onward such as: scrub set, secondary shoes for operating theater, examination kit, diagnostic kits, etc.", and
- Medical allowance, "for treatment and buying of drugs as the available health insurance does not cover treatment and buying of drugs."
The students claim that they were told by the Accountant of the Nigerian Embassy in Russia that an initial amount of $1000 USD for medical allowances was sent to the Embassy for student use but was stopped by the chairman of the scholarship board who said that there was no approval for the allowances.
In fact, the students further allege that the chairman, who said that the government does not have money to pay students, "has appointed a coordinator who is not a Nigerian and has neither been to Nigeria, nor met with any member of the scholarship board," and who "does not even know the students he is suppose to coordinate", all on top of an "outrageous" salary.
The Nigerian Embassy in Moscow had tried to contact the state behalf of the students several times, but grew frustrated with the poor reception from the Bayelsa government.
In desperation, the students sought the opportunity to work, something strictly prohibited for students by Russian law. Some of the students were even arrested.
Reasoning behind the apparent abandonment is unclear. In a video made by the affected students, they aired their concern and dismay surrounding their condition. "We don't know the reason why we are being neglected here," a student said. "Is it that the Bayelsa State government doesn't need doctors anymore? Are they waiting for us to die? Is that what they want?"
Even graduates of Kursk's medical program continue to suffer: "There are other students in Russia that are suffering the same fate, some have graduated but [are] unable to get their certificates or go back to Nigeria as [of] July 2014," SaharaReporters was told.
Despite this, students continue to display optimism regarding their dreams of becoming doctors. "Our dream is to become medical doctors. Help us keep our dream alive," a student said.