Africa: Govt Owes U.S.$400k to Scholarship Students in Africa, Asia

Sergeant-at-arms Martin Johnson administering the oaths to truth to Education Minister Prof. D. Ansu Sonii and Foreign Affairs Minister Gbehzohngar M. Findley

On Tuesday, August 13, 2019, Education Minister D. Ansu Sonii admitted to members of the House of Representatives in session during the 51st day sitting that the Government of Liberia owes US$400,000 to Liberian scholarship students in China, Botswana, Egypt, and Morocco.

Sonii frowned on the protest of the Liberian scholarship students in Morocco, and termed it as unwelcoming.

The Education Minister said government is exerting efforts amid the financial constraints to clear-up allowances but stressed that the case with Liberian scholarship students is that some have overstayed the 'privileged' opportunity given them by the government.

Dr. Sonii and Foreign Affairs Minister Gbehzohngar M. Findley, in separate remarks, told the House Plenary that least 23 Liberian scholarship students who have overstayed in the Kingdom of Morocco beyond the allotted four years to acquire a Bachelor Degree, are expected to come back home. Sources said hopefully before September 2019, they will return.

The two Ministers argued that the protesting students have overstayed and some of the reasons include flunking in their respective studies at various Universities in Morocco. Others, they said, completed their studies but decided to remain, some of them pursuing their Master's degrees at the expense of the bilateral agreement without the knowledge of the Ministry of Education.

The two Ministers further said there are 86 students, and 54 of the 86 students were sent in Morocco under the Weah administration between November 2018 and January 2019, including the seven students who performed extraordinarily in the WASSCE.

The Foreign Minister said according to the Bilateral Agreement, Liberian students and other foreign students, including Moroccan students in special cases who are studying in Morocco are receiving US$75 monthly, but are given bi-monthly (every two months) the sum of US$150, US$25 of which is subtracted for medical.

The two Ministers said students received bi-monthly the sum of US$125, but will be denied if they failed, and that means if they passed the next semester, they will resume receiving US$125 bi-monthly.

However, Minister Findley frowned on the action of scholarship students on the besiege of the Liberian Embassy in Morocco in demand of their allowances and admitted that it was he who mandated the Liberian Ambassador in Morocco to invite the Moroccan Police to remove the Liberian protesting students from the Embassy grounds after failed attempts of dialoguing and getting them to rescind their protest.

The Foreign Minister, in a steady tone, disclosed that the origin of the cause of the protesting students in Morocco stemmed from letters that were written to 23 of the overstayed students to return home.

"We believed that the overstayed students started the protests and we will have to bring them home because of their overstay for at most 11 years. We expected them to commit themselves to the four years in Morocco to acquire Bachelor Degrees. The first year is French studies, while the remaining three years are the focused disciplines," Minister Findley said.

Findley said the Weah Administration inherited the 'overstayed' issue, but said they are exerting efforts in bringing them home. He pointed that this government has sent 54 students in the Kingdom of Morocco between December 2018 and January 2019, in which 11 of the 54 have failed in the first year in French studies.

In Morocco, all foreign students must pass all the French courses before continuing their studies.

Education Minister Dr. Ansu Sonii further said the Liberian government scholarship program in Morocco are in Bachelor's, Master's and PhD degree categories, which require four, two and three years respectively but, according to him, some of the students have spent about ten years acquiring a Bachelor's degree.

"This is unacceptable, the action of these students to protest and overstay does not mean well for the country and there are some of them who have traveled to Italy and other countries without coming home," Prof. Sonii said.

The Education Minister however admitted that there are some students whose Universities are not providing housing and are squatting with their friends and all of them are benefitting from the US$125 bi-montly, but the government is carefully studying the situation address the issues of such students' housing allowances, while bringing back the overstayed students to reduce the government burden.

He said the government is exerting efforts to pay the allowances not only in Morocco, amidst the financial constraints, but failed to say when they will be cleared.

It may be recalled that Ministers Findley and Sonii were summoned by the House of Representatives to appear before the full Plenary to publicly testify on yesterday over the protest for the allowances of over 52 of the 84 Liberian scholarship students and the allegedly forceful and upsetting disruption of their protest in front of the Liberian Embassy by Moroccan Police.

Members of the House of Representatives unanimously expressed their dismay and concerns on Tuesday, August 6, 2019 during the 49th day sitting, with the stranded Liberian scholarship students in a foreign land who have not been given their living allowances for 10 months.

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