The students are in the country under an agreement between five universities and the Uasin Gishu County Government, a devolved unit in the East African country.
The unit has defaulted on its commitment to pay the full millions of dollars in tuition and accommodation, in violation of a tripartite agreement it struck with universities and the parents of 384 students.
With the students, some of them in their second year, facing suspension if fees are not paid by March 31, the county government is facing allegations of misappropriation of money deposited in an education trust account it managed and in which the parents put in about US$4.9 million.
Under the agreement, the county government was to act as a guarantor for the students, now at the center of the “air travel scandal”, to ensure they receive study visas from the Finnish government while the students gain much-needed skills through health and engineering degrees. field.
While parents put money into a trust fund account and the first 51 successful ones went to one of the institutions, the University of Tampere, other groups of students followed, leaving Kenya for Jyväskylä, Laurea and LUT universities in the following months of 2021 and 2022, bringing the total number 202.
Subsequently, another 180 students applied and were admitted to institutions under the agreement and began distance learning while waiting to travel to Finland for face-to-face courses. Others obtained visas and were waiting to enter universities last year and this year.
“We have negotiated with the universities to extend the due date of the fee”
However, it turned out that the county officials, who were also acting as custodians of the account, did not transfer the money to the universities, which precipitated the current crisis. University officials visited Kenya for talks, amid demands for letters to the county government and threats of expulsion.
“We negotiated with the universities to extend the due date of the fee. We have also discussed and reminded parents that paying fees is their responsibility,” Uasin Gishu Governor Jonathan Bii was quoted as saying by local media.
It also emerged that money was fraudulently withdrawn from the account without being paid to Finnish institutions, in a scandal that shocked the country and attracted a judicial investigation by the nation’s anti-corruption agencies.
As a result, transitional measures are being considered, including negotiating an agreement with institutions and local lenders to advance loans to parents.
“We have entered into negotiations with financial institutions and some are willing to offer a concessional loan to parents who are willing to pay fees for their children,” Bii said in a statement.