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FEATURES  

Why Are They So Grateful?
By A Special Feature
Jun 11, 2015, 17:02
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These 22 students now saying THANKS to the President, left Sierra Leone few years back on the understanding that all their economic needs will be one hundred percent taken care of as assured by the late President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

 

The late Venezuelan Head of State, during the height of his oil economic boom, had decided to collect students from all over third world countries like Sierra Leone and other West African nations with a promise to their governments that he will take fullest possible care of them. President Chavez had assured their home governments did not need to spend a single cent on the students he was flying out to Venezuela to study.

 

A little over twenty students were taken from Sierra Leone. It was all well and good in the first year or so and then, sadly, President Chavez died, the Venezuelan economy took nose-dive and that countrys relationship with America also tumbled. It got so bad that the United States declared Venezuela as a State that was a Threat to U.S. National Security and restricted transfer of funds from American banks into Venezuela. The currency in Venezuela devalued at unbelievable rate.

 

In the meantime, the Sierra Leone students alongside other African students now found themselves with a serious dilemma whereby they were still receiving the same amount of allowance in Venezuelan currency from that Venezuelan government but because the Venezuelan currency had greatly devalued, the actual worth of the money they received just could no longer sustain them.

 

It was the same quagmire that other African students found themselves and they all turned to their various home governments for assistance. In case of Sierra Leone, after attending a conference, Deputy Foreign Minister Mrs. Ebun Strasser-King, on her return, wrote a passionate appeal for the students. In her appeal, she explained she discovered the most unexpected plight that the students had found themselves through no fault of theirs. Her appeal was later buttressed in writing by her boss, Foreign Minister Dr. Samura Kamara.

 

All the written appeals from the Foreign Ministry received consideration from the Education Minister Dr. Minkailu Bah.

 

So it was that following these high level interventions on behalf of the students, that President Koromas government approved for immediate rescue to be sent to these students. Again, it should be strongly noted that allowances for these students had never been budgeted for since they had left this country on what were supposed to be 100% Hugo Chavez scholarships. So it was that government sent the allowances for the stranded students to Sierra Leone embassy in Washington for it to be wired to the students in Venezuela.

 

Now let me digress a little. When the APC-led government and Dr. Minkailu Bah first took over the Education Ministry in 2007 after the SLPP lost elections, the policy in place was for overseas students to receive the paltry sum of $450 per year as allowance. Within a twinkle of an eye, Dr. Bah with the approval of President Ernest Koroma, swiftly raised it from $450 to $1,200 per year. Within another few years, Dr. Minkailu Bah again with the approval of President Koroma, raised it from $1,200 to $1,800 per year which is now four times the sum in dollars that overseas students had been receiving under the former SLPP government.

 

Speaking recently on the issue, Dr. Minkailu Bah stated that President Koroma places huge value on education. Dr. Bah rightly pointed out that this is evidenced in massive increase in all sectors of governments intervention in education from primary school level right through to university subventions. The quadruple increase of overseas students allowance from $450 under the SLPP to current levels of $1,800 is a sign of importance President Koroma places on educating students.

TO BE CONTINUED


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