Another cohort of students heads to Finland amid row

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A student demonstrates along the Eldoret-Kiplombe road in Uasin Gishu over the botched Finland airlift program. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Uasin Gishu is sending another cohort of students to Finland despite its airlift programme running into headwinds in the last four months.

On Saturday, a group of 40 students secured visas to Finland and indicated they would start their university studies next month. Parents who paid millions of money for their children to study in Finnish colleges and universities have been demanding refunds.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations are investigating the matter and have questioned former Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago.

The students who are set to travel to Finland anytime this week said it was a relief after months of back and forth.

They asked the county to expedite the processing of visas for a number of students who are yet to begin their studies despite paying their tuition fees through the County Oversees Studies Trust Fund account last year.

Uasin Gishu County officials who met the 40 students in Eldoret on Saturday declined to address the media.

A source told The Standard that the county had begun remitting fees to the Finnish universities for students still interested in the airlift initiative. “The airlift programme is still noble. Some students are still interested, although others have insisted on refunds,” an official said.

The Finland-bound students led by Mercy Cherono, who is heading to Laurea University of Applied Sciences where she is set to study nursing, said she was hopeful that she would start her studies after nearly one year of waiting.

“I have waited for a long period, and securing my visa and the assurance from Laurea University that my fees and accommodation had been paid, is a reprieve,” said Cherono.

She added: “I am urging the current county administration to be transparent to regain trust. We are not celebrating this latest move because many of our friends are yet to travel despite paying their university and college fees more than a year ago.”

She said Uasin Gishu Governor Jonathan Bii intervened by contacting the Finnish universities directly.

“We hope the same will happen for our remaining colleagues.”

Another Finland-bound student, Mercy Chebet, said she has been waiting to join Laurea University for one year and seven months.

Chebet asked Uasin Gishu leaders, who initiated the programme to find a lasting solution for students who applied to study in Finland to continue their studies without hitches.

“We want a lasting solution so that our peers who feel shortchanged start their studies as soon as possible. We are still hopeful that a solution will be found,” said Chebet.

Another student Caleb Kiplimo who is heading to Finland to study Practical Nursing, said he hopes to secure a job in Europe after completing his university education.

“We have had virtual meetings with the University, and we have assured that our learning would be smooth,” he said.

The first cohort of students under the Uasin Gishu airlift programme are expected to graduate in October.

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