Almost 50 Ghanaian students on scholarships to study in Turkey are reportedly stranded because the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) government has refused to pay their monthly allowance for more than 18 months.
In a February 4, 2013 petition addressed to President John Dramani Mahama and signed by the president of the students’ union, Osman Mohammed, he expressed how desperate the students were.
According to him, the government had failed to honour its obligations to the students, which had virtually driven most of them to become beggars on the streets of Turkey. ‘Students borrow to feed themselves and to pay for transportation to commute to and from school and hostels,’ stated Mr. Mohammed in the petition.
The petition made available to DAILY GUIDE was also addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Minister of Education, the Scholarships Secretariat and the GNA.
According to the students, when President Mahama visited Turkey recently, officials of the newly opened Ghana Embassy in Turkey gagged them from venting their frustration on the President, promising to release the outstanding funds as soon as possible.
However, the students complained, as soon as President Mahama left Turkey, the embassy snubbed them, telling them to go for their allowance from Ghana’s Embassy in Italy which originally handled Ghana’s consular situations for Turkey prior to the inauguration of the embassy in Turkey.
‘We were simply gagged not to touch on certain detailed grievances. We also gave in because of the assurances by the Embassy to pursue this matter with the needed alacrity.
However, after your [President Mahama] departure, the Embassy is telling us to contact Rome to respond to this particular issue because they were not those originally handling matter originally.
Your Excellency, Rome has also abdicated any continual responsibility to us because we now have a fully operational Embassy,’ the students reported to President Mahama.
Threat To Education
The students who were selected by a special bilateral arrangement between the Turkish and Ghanaian government are reportedly staring academic failure and destitution in the face because they are unable to deliver requisite academic works that will ensure their graduation.
‘Final year students are unable to graduate simply because of the lack of funds to travel and present their published research work at international conferences per the universities’ demands and standards, whereas those who have struggled to complete are left loitering because they cannot afford air tickets back,’ the petition stated.
The situation, according to Mr. Mohammed, had hindered students from being able to acquire text books, print and photocopy learning materials. ‘The academic spirit of students is dampening, thereby making concentration on studies difficult.’
It is unclear if President Mahama’s government has taken any steps to address the grievance of the students. A call to Mr. Mohammed by DAILY GUIDE on Thursday evening showed that the government might have been jolted by the reality of the students’ plight.
He told the paper that the Ghana Embassy in Turkey had assured the students that the arrears, worth several hundred thousand dollars, had been dispatched. However, they have not received the cash yet.
The same scenario is playing out in other countries where Ghanaian students on government scholarships are groaning over nonpayment of their allowance.
BY Raphael Ofori-Adeniran