A recent report exposed the plight of 14 students of Kano State origin who are studying on government scholarship in India. In that report, the students studying medicine in India’s SS Institute of Medical Science and Research Centre (SSIMS & RC), Davanagere, were prevented from writing final examination because of the government’s failure to offset their school fees of about $59,200 (N22 million).
The students who are currently in a dilemma over the development are worried that they may have been abandoned in a foreign land by their government. Lamenting, they noted that the challenges confronting them in India are affecting their studies and may have put their desire to achieve the purpose for which they travelled to that country in jeopardy.
They also claimed that they have been undergoing that difficulty for almost two years, a situation that has left them stranded with no allowances. The affected students said that they have done everything possible to get reprieve from the relevant authorities in Kano State to no avail. The most disturbing aspect of the plight of these students, in our considered opinion, is the fact that they may not conclude their studies, as the college has excluded their names from the list of graduating students.
Barely a week after the report on the students of the Indian university, there was another troubling story of the arrest of five out of the 25 Kano State government sponsored medical students studying in an Egyptian University by the police over failure to pay 13 months accommodation fees. In a letter of notification to the Executive Secretary of the Kano State scholarship board, the management of the Egyptian university warned that the remaining students might face the same fate if the government failed to urgently intervene.
We are, indeed, concerned that a state like Kano which is in dire need of qualified manpower, especially in the health sector, will be treating with levity what ought to have been a laudable effort to bridge the gap. By the 2006 census figures, the population of Kano State stands at 9,401,288, making it the most populous state in the country. The state, according to available record, has about 1,500 doctors working in both public and private health centres. The figure indicates that the patients to doctor ratio hovers around 1:6,200, which on all accounts is abysmally low.
In a state with this appalling statistics, it is sad that potential medical doctors who should be bonded by the state are allowed to pass through undeserved hardship and embarrassment over an obligation as simple as payment of fees and other allowances.
There is no contesting the fact that resources available to the government are scarce, even as its expenses are wide. However, we expect the government to list its priorities of which health should top the table. The Kano State doctor-to-patient ratio, like the national ratio, is a far cry from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended standard of one doctor to 600 (1:600).
The government has an onerous responsibility to support these potential medical doctors graduate successfully so as to beef up the state’s health human resource base. We recall that most of these students were sponsored by the then administration of former Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. But since government is a continuum, it behoves on its successor to offset liabilities that may have arisen from their sponsorship.
Although the concerns raised by the state government over allegations of abuse of the foreign scholarship scheme by some officials of previous administration may be genuine, we insist that subjecting the students to the current harsh treatment amounts to punishing them for an offence they neither committed nor have control over. Already, there are concerns that the state government is paying lip service to the sponsorship of the students, and by implication the scheme, because of the political expediency of doing such since the scheme is the brainchild of the former administration.
But we urge the government to rethink this position so as not to create the impression that it is playing politics with education. It is heartening to note that the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Ganduje on Higher Education, Hussein Jarma was reported to have said that the money for the students will soon be released by the state ministry of finance.
This newspaper appeals to the government to expedite action on the processes in order not to expose the students to further needless hardship.