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Family's agony over boy stranded in The Philippines

BUSIA
By | September 10th 2011

By Alex Kiprotich

It may be fun to travel to a foreign country, but many things can awfully go wrong.

Matters can get bad when you do not have anyone to turn to, and worse still, when your sponsors abandon you as a student.

Edwin Chebon from Baringo County is in despair as he grapples with a difficult life in The Philippines, thousands of kilometres away from the care, love and warmth of his family. He left the country on November 11, last year, to study after Baringo Central MP Sammy Mwaita assured him of a scholarship.

But this has turned out to be a nightmare for Chebon and his family. At the home of Mr Nahaman Kandagor we are welcomed by his wife, Elima, who brings us stools and disappears back to the house.

She then comes back holding photographs of her son, and weeps uncotrollably as she stares at them.

"This is him," she points to me. "He was very happy when he left last year though I was against the idea, given that he had admission at Egerton University; but he convinced me he would return with a Masters degree to help us," she said.

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But that dream now looks hollow for Chebon, his parents and siblings. The scholarship he was promised turned out to be the family’s source of misery.

"After completing my first semester, the university informed me that I have to pay my fees, accommodation and food," he says.

Chebon had enrolled at Negros Oriental State University for a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy after the MP told him he had secured for him a scholarship.

But today, Chebon has been thrown out of school and depends on well-wishers. He seeks a different friend when he becomes a burden to the host.

"I have no place to stay, I have no food and cannot even buy my self a toothpaste. I live at the mercy of friends and keep on moving from one friend to another for shelter," he wrote in an e-mail to this writer.

"I am wondering when help will come by. I only want to go back home. I want to be re-united with my family. I know the torture they are going through. I have called them a hundred times," he says. His father says every time his phone rings he trembles. He has lied to the son so many times that they are doing what they can to bring him back home.

"I do not know what to tell him anymore. He wants to return home, but we have no means. We have tried getting our MP who initiated it, but there is no help."

The distraught father says the MP took his son’s details to process his travel papers. He recalls the moment at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport when he bid his son goodbye.

"It was ecstasy. My son promised me he would come back with a Masters degree. His mother looked at Chebon and cried as he entered the check-in point," he says, his voice growing hoarse. He adds, "We did not know we were sending him to despair."

At this point tears trickle down his eyes and Chebon’s grandmother, Talai, who has all the time been sitting pensively, cries and then speaks in Kalenjin.

"My grandson... I have never seen something like this. Someone’s child is taken and abandoned as if he grew like a tree. He was born like others and I wonder why no one is helping him," she says.

"I know he does not even have soap to bathe. I know he is suffering. I no longer sleep. Someone, please, bring him home. That is all I want. I looked after him as he grew up. It is bitter he is just gone like that."

The emotional Talai moves my colleague, Mengich, who abandons the microphone he has been holding and excuses himself. Kandagor and his wife too join their grandson’s grandmother.

"I have tried all I can to meet Mr Mwaita to explain to me what happened, but it has been impossible. When he has functions in the locality, I attend with the intention of asking him what became of the scholarship he offered my son but every time he tells me he is working on something," says Kandagor.

When contacted, the MP said it is true he picked the boy to sponsor him in Philippines, but there have been issues beyond his scope.

"I have tried my part, but seems there is more than this," he said. On why he has not met the family to explain, he said he has been co-ordinating with the area councillor. "I do not want to bypass local leaders and did not see any need to meet the parents directly," he said.

The family has sold many things in order to send money to Chebon for his return. His return ticket has since expired.

George, a travel agent at Akarim agencies, says Chebon’s ticket was a special offer that was only valid for a month and the family has to buy a new ticket.

"Chebon bought two tickets, one for Nairobi to Hong Kong and the other from Hong Kong via Manila to Cebo. But transport is not the only expense Chebon needs. He realised that he went to Philippines on a tourist visa and not student visa. The immigration will not allow him to leave until he settles a fee of Sh200,000 for not updating his status.

He says his situation is dire and were it not for well wishers of a Kenyan student he got to know, he would be scavenging for food in the litter bins of Dumaguete city.

"For weeks I had nothing to eat and nowhere to stay. My friends could not bear it anymore.

I understood and went out to the streets, but luckily I got some friend who has agreed to house me as I try to get a way out of here. I am just a burden to innocent students," he says.

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