Monrovia — Days after a FrontPageAfrica report detailed unraveled how Liberian students in China could go to prison due to the expiration of their Visas, documents obtained by FPA shows a list of 32 students (thirty-two) who have purchased tickets with the Royal Air MOROC but cannot travel because the airlines continue to cancel flights without refunding the students.
Mr. Onisemus James, one of the affected students, told FrontPageAfrica, said he was surprised when Minister of Education Professor Ansu Sonii informed members of the Senate that there are eleven students in China when in fact there are actually 32 students on government scholarships facing jail.
Last week the Education Minister Sonii, during a senate committee appearance said that eleven Liberian Students who have completed studies in China were at risk of being imprisoned, if the government of Liberia delays getting them back before or by the end of September.
The Minister said he has been informed by the Chinese Ambassador accredited to Liberia that any delay by the government of Liberia to get the students out of China before September 28, will lead to their imprisonment.
Said Minister Sonii: "The students in China are 11 who have completed and I have to move quickly to get their tickets to come back because there is still no flights from China here. The Ambassador called me this morning that if those folks are not out of China by the 28th, they will go to jail. China is not like Morocco, when your time is up, you must get on the plane and leave."
Minister Sonii explained that the ministry made a request in July for an extension up to the end of September due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With that extension up, the minister says, the students are in a bind. "We are pursuing funds and we hope to get the tickets for those students or else they will go to jail and to free them from jail we have to pay 10 thousand RFD every day and free them from prison straight to the plane. They will put them in jail, the ambassador has told me he cannot do anything more."
Minister Sonii also informed the Senate that, Liberia has a total of 143 students in the Diaspora: Sixty-one in China, 72 in Morocco, two in the United States and eight in India. According to him, Liberia's obligation to those in the U.S. is strictly limited to the allowances government pay. The students have been categorized; of the 143 students, 43 are doing Medical sciences.
The Minister acknowledged that there are currently issues with some 25 students who have overstayed in Morocco. "They had a contract with government for a four-year degree; but some have stayed there up to 10 years. People who are actually agitating about payment for allowances were the ones who have overstayed. We offered to bring them back because they have overstayed. Three have come back, the rest are still there."
The minister also informed members of the Senate about the Government of Liberia's new measures in granting foreign scholarship requires the parents of the student to commit to paying allowances of their child or children if government delays in payment.
"Because of the difficulties in paying allowances to students in the Diaspora, it is not fair to refuse a bilateral offer because we don't have allowance, we asked students and their parents to sign an MOU that if government failed to get allowances to students, they (Parents) will pay and any parent who refuses child will not be sent," Min. Sonii said.
Suspending local government scholarship
Minister Sonii informed the Senate that the Government of Liberia has suspended all local government scholarships because of the lack of liquidity to fund the scholarships. "Because of liquidity, we were unable to respond to the obligation that rose close to a million dollars which forced us to end the local scholarship program. By the time we ended this program, there were over four hundred thousand dollars owe institutions.