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15 students stuck in Finland over fees in scholarship pact saga

Education
 Governor Stephen Sang. He signed an agreement with Edusampo University in June, last year. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Fifteen students selected for a Finnish airlift programme signed by Nandi County Government are now in dilemma over payment of their university fees.

Hundreds of students applied for what they believed was a scholarship programme and 25 were successful and got admitted to Edusampo University.

Early this year, 15 students left Kenya to study a practical nursing course, and the remaining batch was to travel once they comply with the scholarship terms.

However, just months into their studies, the university has threatened to cut short their studies for non-payment of fees.

It has emerged Edusampo University administration and the county government are entangled in a push and pull on who should pay. A student revealed that the county government did not inform their families that they were supposed to pay the university fees as the county government guaranteed their learning.

"The Suomi International Consultants (Suinco) and Nandi County were the only parties in the agreement. We were roped in during the application process, but we did not have access to the contract," said the student, who requested anonymity.

He said it cost his parents about Sh1.2 million to process his travel to Helsinki. Little did they know that more money will be required for the one-year advanced practical nursing course. "We sold land among other properties to get finances for the programme and my parents gave it all for my scholarship knowing the rest of the financial obligation will be met by the county."

A parent, who also sought anonymity, claimed he was shocked to learn that they were supposed to pay about Sh900,000 to the county government for tuition fees.

"The process was politicised and sugar-coated as a scholarship without disclosure of agreement with the institution," he said.

 Governor Stephen Sang (centre) when he announced a partnership program with five Universities in Finland. [Twitter, Stephen Sang]

According to the agreement signed by Governor Stephen Sang and the university in June, last year, the students were to benefit from a practical nursing programme.

However, Edusampo University CEO Terhi Toikkanen said the county government is yet to remit Sh13.4 million, which was to be paid in three instalments before the students proceed to Finland.

According to the agreement, the county guaranteed the scholarship of the students and it was responsible for payment of school fees and perhaps the students' families had no obligations in the document.

Edusampo issued additional documents to the county government that was supposed to involve the families as the third party.

"These documents were sent to the Nandi county government for signing on April 6, 2023, but have not been returned to us. All payments must come from the county to Edusampo due to Finnish legal requirements. No direct payments are allowed from students or sponsors," said Ms Toikkanen.

However, the county government has distanced itself from the scholarship circus. County Secretary Francis Sang claimed the county government only guaranteed for the students, with no other financial obligation.

"We have reached out to the parents and it has been a push and pull with no solution. The parents are supposed to pay school fees through the County Department of Education," he said.

He dismissed claims that the terms of agreement were not disclosed to the parents, saying the county through the concern department has engaged the students' financiers but nothing is forthcoming.

"The county has not reneged in its role and the students will not be sent back from Finland. What we implore the parents is that they should take up the responsibility to sustain the students for only a few months before they stand on their own," said Dr Sang.

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