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SOAD bemoans plight of Nigerian students on govt scholarship in Northern Cyprus

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By Bianca Iboma

Worried by the plight of Nigerian students on government scholarship studying abroad, especially in Northern Cyprus, Minister of Youth, State of African Diaspora (SOAD), Olasubomi Iginla-Aina,  has urged government to sustain education scholarship agreement entered with several institutions in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Iginla-Aina, who  made this call at a press briefing held in Lagos State recently, revealed that  students from Zamfara State were on the verge of expulsion due to  non-payment of their tuition. She appealed to Zamfara State Governor, Dauda Lawal, to come to their rescue.

She explained that the students  were awarded scholarship under former Governor Bello Matawalle, and the agreement needs to be sustained by the current administration for the students to have a hitch-free education abroad.

Iginla-Aina narrated how she visited the island alongside her team after receiving text messages and calls, among other information, on Nigerian students’ welfare in Northern Cyprus.

“The students said the island was safe and secure but expressed some of the challenges they face, which included language barrier between the students and some public servants, who lacked a basic understanding of the English language. This often posed a challenge and widens the communication gap between them and public officials. They also complained about deportation of students and landlord issues, among others.

“The students equally complained about their healthcare system. They said that they paid health care insurance when they got their student visas for Cyprus. After paying this money, one would expect that a contract has been established to provide health services should the need arise, but, unfortunately, the healthcare system, with regard to the public health system, is not as good as it should be.

“A lot of  the students patronise private healthcare services, which is quite expensive. The African students told me that they are also faced with sexual harassment from both blacks and citizens of the Island.”

Iginla-Aina is equally seeking  the intervention of the Federal Government on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) monetary policies that have denied them access to funds and  have made it very difficult for the youths to pay bills.

“They lamented that CBN’s directive had affected their academic progress because all transactions must go through the CBN and it has not been easy for them.

“The changes affected the students’ ability to pay school fees and rent as well as pay for their daily expenses at the appropriate time. This often leaves them stranded, with avoidable penalties and is frustrating their academic progress and overall wellbeing.

“It equally hampers  their  ability to fulfill their financial obligations promptly, since they are denied access to the fund.

“I’m appealing to the government to  resolve the matter and strengthen diplomatic ties with Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in order to improve the welfare of the students, as more than 12,000 Nigerian youths enrolled at their university, as at January 2023.

“The stress on academic work is already, tedious and draining, for them to cope with the traumatic experience by the CBN.”

Explaining her mission to Northern Cyprus, she said: “Due to the many caps I wear, which afford me the opportunity to work with youths globally, I  received calls, mails, text messages, regarding alleged maltreatment of Nigerian students in Northern Cyprus. These incidences caught my attention about three years ago but I couldn’t visit the island due to COVID-19 and other matters arising. I finally made it to TRNC in May 2023.”

Iginla-Aina said there was no perfect society anywhere in the world. “The system obtainable here is to pay your tuition fee and other registration required. Once you don’t pay it becomes a challenge.

“Even students on government scholarships are not spared the agony because many students across the country have not remitted their tuition fees, despite education agreement they have entered  with the school authorities.”

She cited the current issues facing students from Zamfara State in Northern Cyprus, who have not paid their tuition. There has been a breach of contract, the students are about to be sent out of school.

“I understand that there was a change in government and the current government of Zamfara State needs to intervene before our youths get expelled from school in Northern Cyprus.”

On his part, president of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Comrade Opeoluwa Seun Ojekemi, stated that the island was a safe haven for students to learn: “It is safe and trouble-free. The island has an excellent reputation for being a friendly and safe place. Crime is remarkably low and the destination is tourist-friendly.”

Ojekemi highlighted several factors why African students should study in Northern Cyprus. “Our institutions are intact and democratic. Northern Cyprus is a place where the rule of law prevails. It has a wonderful climate, rich history, cultural heritage and high-quality for higher education.”

He listed institution accreditation, affordable tuition, cultural diversity, safe and trouble-free environment, qualitative education, medical insurance, improved language skills and tourist destination for travel enthusiasts as some of the things that international students need to know about Cyprus.

He further noted that the island had many universities where over 100,000 students from various countries study, even as he revealed that the number was exponentially growing every year.

“Meanwhile, foreigners in Northern Cyprus are trained in English. Applicants must speak this language at a sufficiently high level,” he said.

He added that the educational process allows international students to get acquainted with the western education system, which has a lot of positive aspects. He also noted that the schools have close ties with universities in England, Germany, France and Poland, among others: “All universities in Northern Cyprus are accredited by the Ministry of Education in Turkey and equally recognized worldwide.”