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General News of Thursday, 14 March 2013

Source: Daily Guide

Ghanaian students in limbo

The continuous non-payment of allowances and tuition fees of Ghanaian students studying under scholarship in the United Kingdom by the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) has caused them evictions from hostels and expulsions from campus, says Tahiru A. Hakeem, spokesperson of Ghanaian International Students in UK.

Mr. Hakeem, a post-graduate student at the University of Dundee, on behalf of the hundreds of students, this week, issued a desperate release to the media after they have failed to catch the attention of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) government, despite several petitions addressed to President Mahama, the GETFund and other stakeholders.

In the statement that was made available to DAILY GUIDE, the students extensively enumerated the dire conditions they had to grapple with in their academic pursuit in the UK.

According to the students, they were extremely disappointed in the GETFund for failing to honour their promises to settle arrears that dated back more than six months. In January, the GETFund assured the students that the funds would be released by February.

“The most disheartening thing is the fact that GETFund has confirmed receipt of money from Ministry of Finance purposely for payment of our living allowances over four weeks now (since February 6, 2013), yet our financial quandary is still lingering. Besides, we were assured by the Public Relations Manager of GETFund, through Citi News, that Fidelity Bank would ‘wire the money’ to us in the ensuing week but that has proven to be a deception.”

The GETFund’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Steve Baffoe, believed the delays in payment were due to administrative bottlenecks between the time the Ministry of Finance released the funds to be disbursed by the fund and the time, actual disbursements were done.

According to Mr. Baffoe, around January, an amount of GH¢3million was released for disbursement to the students through Fidelity Bank, but he quickly admitted that the amount was not going to be enough to go around the more than 200 students in the UK on government scholarship.

“I am saying that GH¢3million was available in January for transfer to the various schools, but we were aware as GETFund, that the three million would not be able to go round every student. So what we were going to do was to pay those whose claims have been outstanding for a very long time,” Mr. Baffoe told DAILY GUIDE on Wednesday in a telephone conversation.

“A certain number of students have had their fees paid,” he said. But the spokesperson of the students disagrees with this: “Their failure to ‘wire’ us the money as promised has even further aggravated our situation since we relied on that promise to renegotiate strictly binding agreements with our respective accommodation facilities managers. Our inability to redeem our promise per our renegotiated terms has created suspicion about the credibility of GETFund in the minds of our landlords,” Mr. Hakeem challenged.

“We admit that there is still a number that have not been paid yet, and we have come to this situation because we are waiting on the Ministry of Finance to release the November/December payment for 2012. When we are able to get that money, we should be able to pay a lot more of the student,” the GETFund PRO conceded.

However, it appears that the students’ worst nightmares have been fulfilled as the landlords of some of them have dragged them to court. “As far as our current survival and accommodation are concerned, we are sitting on a time-bomb with our fate dangling like pendulum, since our hostel facility managers have forwarded our files to their legal department for court processing leading to legal action and possible eviction from our rooms. Some of our colleagues have already been evicted from their rooms in some universities and currently living under the mercy of their friends who are also awaiting their eviction soon,” Mr. Hakeem stated.

Dismissal

Mid January this year, Ambrose Amenshiah, a student in the University of Bradford wrote desperately to the Ghana High Commission in the UK to save him from dismissal, as his school was fed up with his continuous excuses for not paying his tuition fees for the 2012/2013 academic year.

Even though Mr. Baffoe told DAILY GUIDE that the GETFund is in constant correspondence with school authorities to explain the circumstances causing the delays, an email addressed to the embattled Amenshiah from Robert Hand—the Head of University of Bradford Student Administration and Support—and intercepted by

DAILY GUIDE read: “It has come to my attention that your tuition fees have not been paid by your sponsor, Ghana Education Trust Fund. They were issued an invoice on 23rd October, 2012 but this has not been paid to date.”

Apparently, the correspondence from the University of Bradford on behalf of Mr. Amenshiah to the GETFund was ignored as Robert Hand indicated: “As they have failed to respond to my letters and faxes I suggest that you contact your sponsor to request payment so there is no adverse affect on your studies.”

DAILY GUIDE gathered that consequently, the beleaguered student has been dismissed because the school gave him a 21 February 2013 deadline to pay up, or get sacked.

“It is lamentable that our several outcries for urgent intervention has been reduced to ‘political ball’ in the country while GETFund and other stakeholders of youth and education have resorted to perpetual ‘culture of silence’ as we continue to languish in pain and despondency in a foreign land,” Tahiru Akeem complained.

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