A group of South Sudanese students are stranded in Zimbabwe after alleged failure by their government to clear outstanding arrears and secure flights for their home return.
Those affected are from two universities in the southern African nation.
The students, in an April 8 letter, urged South Sudan government to urgently facilitate the release of funds approved by the council of ministers to support students studying abroad.
The funds, they stated, were meant to clearing arrears and buy air tickets for students who completed their studies to return home.
At least seven of the 22 students who completed their studies in December last year are still stranded, unless government intervenes.
“We truly appreciated the scholarship chance we got and that is why we finished on time. Unfortunately, we are now being left stranded in Zimbabwe despite the enormous commitment from the highest authority due to lack of follow up or ill-intention somewhere within the ministry concern,” partly reads the letter.
Students Radio Tamazuj interviewed said they are facing immigration problems since they are no longer eligible for study permit extension.
“Most of us are experiencing passport expiration that will affect our staying here in Zimbabwe. We simply need to go home because we completed what we were here for,” further notes the letter.
According to the students, each one owes the university nearly $7,000, meaning government has to pay $154,000 for the 22 of them.
However, of the 22 students who completed studies, 15 of them returned home, while seven of them have not yet secured air tickets.
John Aweenthi, a stranded graduate, said they have not received any communication from the education ministry on their issue.
“We are in a dilemma. Some of our colleagues have expired passports. They do not know what to do,” Aweenthii said.
He added, “We are urging the government to clear our accounts so that we go. Maybe we will one day find a job somewhere to do”.
Meanwhile Moses Kat, the President of South Sudan Students Association in Zimbabwe acknowledged the students’ concerns, saying he has been engaging the authorities in Juba on this matter.
“We have been pleading with the government so that they can clear the arrears and after the clearance of these arrears, they should be able to provide tickets to these students so that students who have completed their studies can be able to go back to South Sudan,” said Kat.
He added, “They cannot get their papers if these outstanding arrears are not cleared”.
Kat blamed the ministry of higher education for the students’ woes.
“We have written to the ministry of higher education, but they have not responded. Even the embassy wrote to the ministry,” he said.
According to the students’ leader, a total of 79 South Sudanese have been studying in at least five different universities in Zimbabwe.
The ministry of higher education could not immediately be reached for comment.