Liberian Students in China Call on Gov’t to Pay Overdue Allowances

Beijing, China -  The Liberian Student Union in China (LSUIC), the umbrella organization for all Liberian students studying in China calls on the Government of Liberia to urgently come to their rescue and honor the scholarship contract signed between students and the Government of Liberia.

There are currently 65 bilateral students who are affected by this delay from the Inter-Ministerial Scholarship Committee (IMSC) and Ministry of Education.

According to Abimelech Paye Gbatu, representative, the students entered into a contract agreement with the Government of Liberia through the IMSC, but the Government has continuously ignored the terms of the contract signed with students in providing living allowances on a quarterly basis.

This arrangement was changed by the IMSC to bi-annually because according to them, the delay in the passage of the budget cannot permit them to live up to the contract (quarterly) arrangement. But living up to the latter commitment still remains a mystery.

Gbatu says the students are now counting 10 consecutive months since the last allowance was due.

“In all of the many communications to the Head of the IMSC and Minster of Education, Hon. George K. Werner, the responses have been without any excuse, but an indefinite “wait” until a month ago. In reply to one of the many communications between Minister Werner and the students, he informed the students that instead of the usual payment medium of bank transfer to the Embassy of Liberia in Beijing-China, a team from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Ministry of Education was coming to China to do payments but until the circulation of this release, the team is yet to come on grounds that the team has not presented its reports from Morocco.”

Mr. Gbatu says the delay is very troubling and worrisome because as students, the primary focus is to study and meet up with the required grade point average of the Chinese Government Scholarship as well as the terms stipulated in the contract agreement with the Liberian Government. “

Moreover, the living standard in China has since increased and students now bear the full burden of funding for medical expenses (excluding cases of emergency), text books, dormitory rentals, internet, water bills, electricity and other daily expenses.

All the students here are holders of student’s visa and by the Chinese laws are not permitted to work. As a result, life in China becomes very unbearable when the source of income has been delayed for 10 months.”

Also in this advocacy, the September 2014 batch of students who came to China during the Ebola crisis did not receive their full allowances, when all other students in other countries who traveled the same time as the students in China received their just allowances.

This, according to the IMSC was due to a new policy by the Government of Liberia even though the contracts signed with the Government of Liberia stated otherwise.

The money (US$15,750) was paid by the Ministry of Finance and disbursed to China through the Liberian Embassy in Beijing but later returned to Liberia on orders of the Director General of the Civil Service Agency (CSA), Hon. Puchu Leona Bernard.

Until now, there has not been any explanation or purported policy communicated to the affected students why they were denied their fair stipend.

The students also present their sincere plead that the IMSC expedites the travel arrangements for prospective graduates of 2016, as they will need baggage and incidental allowances and flight tickets to return home. Many students have already successfully defended their research theses and only awaiting graduation.

Graduates are expected to begin returning home as early as June 2016. Let this medium also serve as a passionate appeal to the Government to also make this matter a priority because of the straight immigration laws here so as to avoid another instance where Liberian students will again be thrown out of student’s dormitories or arrested and subjected to prison because of the unavailability of travel tickets to return home before his/her visa expires. There are no bilateral provisions on visa expiration and the financial penalty attached to this offence is very costly.

The students are meanwhile appealing to members of the national legislature for a timely intervention in asking the IMSC to remit these allowances to China.

“The first engagement has been a written communication to the members of the Inter Ministerial Scholarship Committee, House of Representatives through the House Committee on Education as well as the Senate through its Committee on Education but responses from these communications are yet to be received. Life in China has become unbearable, especially when students have been challenged by financial difficulties. Please act now before it is too late.”

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