25 Liberian Students Stranded in Cairo

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The plight of 25 Liberian students who are presently stranded in Cairo, Egypt without any source of income has once again resurfaced with an appeal to the Liberian government to come to their assistance.
Mohammed Kiawhen, president of the Liberian Students Union in Cairo, in a letter to the Daily Observer, said without financial support, all the students are ‘struggling to simply survive in a strange land that has been too difficult for them.”
The letter said since 2011, financial allowances arrangement from the Civil Service Agency, (CSA) was discontinued.
“We were awarded scholarships by the Liberian government through the Ministry of Education in the same manner as other beneficiaries in various partner countries.
“Students in Egypt, like all other students, upon hearing of scholarship awards through advertisements submitted necessary credentials which were further scrutinized and vetted by both GoL and the Egyptian government through its Embassy in Monrovia.”
Kiawhen’s letter said the 25 of them were selected as qualified candidates in which they were to undertake studies in undergraduate studies in various academic disciplines.
“We were supposed to study engineering, medicine, accounting and computer science, and so on,” he wrote.
However, Kiawhen said, “Upon our arrival in Egypt, we were made to undergo Islamic and Arabic studies at Al-Azhar (University) on the grounds that this was the actual scope and content of the scholarship and not what the Ministry of Education in Liberia had incorrectly made us (students) to believe.”
Kiawhen said, “All this while we have been actively pursuing means of transferring to the requisite fields of studies, including engineering, medicine, computer science, etc.”
He said, “Fortunately, the Egyptian authorities agreed in a meeting with the delegation of the Inter-Ministerial scholarship Committee (IMSC), headed by Ms. Robtel Neajai Pailey, during which both partners unanimously asserted that such could be effectuated through an official communication from the Liberian government through its embassy near Cairo.”
Accordingly, Kiawhen said, “We (25 students) continued to contact both the MOE through its scholarship department and the Inter-ministerial Scholarship Committee to implement the said agreement (immediate transfer of students to departments in alignment with GoL capacity building strategy) but to no avail since 2011 up to present.”
He wrote: “The delay and or failure on the part of GoL (Ministry of Education and Inter-ministerial Scholarship Committee) to implement the immediate transfer of the students and the sudden stoppage of our allowances for about two and half years has consequently resulted to endless suffering and lack of our progress, educationally, morally, socially, medically, among others.”
Kiawhen appealed to the Government of Liberia to restore their allowances and to enable them complete their respective academic activities.
A letter signed by then CSA Director George Werner, (now Education Minister), said: “The program in Egypt was evaluated and decisions were made about two years ago. Going forward, the Liberian Embassy in Cairo plays a vital role as do we ourselves.
“The students know this. The students themselves know that we will not honor any communication from them until they comply with our policy and reconcile with the Liberian diplomats in Cairo. We have had too many exchanges and the students were told to return home.
“The Egyptian authorities were told to facilitate the process of their return home. The Liberian Embassy facilitated these communications. The policy has not yet changed.”
In a related development, Foreign Minister Augustine K. Ngafuan spoke recently at the occasion marking the official celebration of the 63rd Anniversary of the July 23rd Revolution of the Arab Republic of Egypt and at a farewell dinner in honor of Ambassador Lofti, whose tour of duty had ended.
He made no mention of the plight of the stranded students in that Arab country. However, the Minister said that the relations between Egypt and Liberia have been cordial, mutually respectful and beneficial, with Egypt providing technical assistance to Liberia including short-term training programs and long-term bilateral scholarships. These opportunities are based on Technical Cooperation Agreement between the Egypt Fund for Technical Cooperation with Africa and the Government of Liberia, which continues to greatly impact the human resource development of the country.

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