Mandago under pressure over student airlift scandal

However, that became the beginning of the parents' and students' troubles. Cheboson said the whole thing morphed into a hide-and-seek game between them and county officials. "This has cost the parents their monies and students their dreams and time," he said.

The student who now works at a club in Eldoret says the programme officials kept postponing their travel date until about two years later.

Cheboson stated that after postponing the travel date to July, the students had been asked to do pathway studies for four months and that they had to attain 25 credits for them to travel.

"We attained the required credits, and we were given new dates in November last year that we would travel. The universities indicated that we would begin our studies on December 1, 2022. However, this was never to be," he said.

For a young student who had dreams of changing the lives of his family member and his community, Cheboson says he feels he has been wasted by the county.

"I cannot stop thinking about how I would have graduated last year and moved on with my life because I would still be interested in being a journalist. I am an author and I was working on my first book. However, since his whole ordeal began, I have been unable to concentrate," he said.

And now, former governor Jackson Mandago is under pressure to come clean on the programme, which has seen parents lose millions.

A police officer tries to calm down parents who had stormed Uasin Gishu county offices in Kapseret to demand a refund of their money following the controversial student airlift programme. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

He added: "But when the governor goes to the press and says everyone should carry his own cross, I agree with him and I will do so to the extent that I exited office on August 25, 2022, and handed it over to him."

Brian Kimutai, another student who was set to join Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Canada under the same programme, said the disappointment had taken an emotional and mental toll on him.

Kimutai, who resigned from his job and applied to be part of the over 100 students who were to travel to Canada, said the county has 'messed our lives'.

He recounted that at some point, he had to leave home for eight months to be away from the constant reminder of the 'failed' programme, despite doing several harambees to raise his fees.

"With hopes of studying abroad, I made the difficult decision to resign from my job. However, these dreams turned to despair when the promised enrollment at TRU failed to materialise. I have undergone depression, and had to have uncomfortable conversations with my parents, fully aware of the sacrifices they made to support me," said Kimutai.

Uasin Gishu senator Jackson Mandago addressing a press briefing at his office in Eldoret on Friday, July 15, 2023. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

EACC Chief Executive Officer Twalib Mbarak has said that investigations into the alleged embezzlement of students' funds are in progress.

The Commission's head of corporate affairs and communication, Eric Ngumbi said that EACC sleuths have recovered key documents from three signatories of the trust bank accounts implicated in the scandal, saying that the documents will be crucial in the investigations.

"We urge parents to be patient since ordinary investigations take some time and a watertight case requires that we gather sufficient evidence. Once the commission finalizes the investigations, we will give recommendations and if we discover any loss of money, we will move towards recovery of the money," Ngumbi said.

Meanwhile, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations has begun investigations into the scandal, and detectives are expected to visit the county for three days next week to launch a comprehensive probe.