South Sudan Students stranded in Cuba and Zimbabwe over fees arrears

Oct 19, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — About 40 South Sudan students are currently stranded in Cuba and Zimbabwe with no money for food, transportation or a plane ticket home.  

South Sudan Students participating in the sit-in at the embassy said they have suffered shortages of food(Photo credit: supplied/Nyamilepedia)

South Sudan Students participating in the sit-in at the embassy said they have suffered shortages of food(Photo credit: supplied/Nyamilepedia)

28 of these students are stranded in Zimbabwe while 12 are in Cuba. Some of them say they graduated in July last year while others graduated in July this year.

In Cuba, the students are saying that they are barely getting by.

“Our situation is very hard because here in Cuba we don’t have an embassy, we don’t have what [food] to eat, we don’t have money, our family cannot send us money, we don’t have money for transport,” Nuer Deng Deng, a medical degree graduate from Cuba’s University of Medical Sciences in Pinar del Río who finished his studies last year told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.

In Zimbabwe, the situation is not any different. The students even went to occupy the South Sudan Embassy and shut down its operations to protest what they say are dire living conditions. 

“The government has not done anything, especially the ministry of higher education, the very ministry that brought us here. As someone in charge of the ministry, you have to plan for this particular group of people who want to go back home. We did not come here on our own, we were brought here by the government,” John Mabil, a student who graduated with a law degree from Zimbabwe’s Midlands State University in July told South Sudan in Focus.

According to Charles Lotara, a South Sudanese who graduated from the Great Zimbabwe University last year and has since returned to Juba, there are more than 170 students in Zimbabwe over the past five years who have not received their certificates or transcripts because South Sudan is yet to pay arrears to those universities. 

“The government of South Sudan owes the government of Zimbabwe about $2 million in arrears. These arrears are divided into three categories; we have tuition fees, we have feeding, and money for accommodation and without that, students cannot get their certificates and transcripts,” Lotara said.

While the Education ministry admits that it owes Zimbabwe more than $2 million, it is throwing the ball to the finance ministry for not releasing the funds.

The finance ministry on its part has said that the students were not sponsored by the government but were on private sponsorship.

“How were these scholarships awarded? It’s not the government which sent them. There must have been some basic agreement about scholarships. These students either went on their own or there was a scholarship from that government, OK? This is how normally it works,” Ocun Karlo, an official from the Finance Ministry said.

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