Step in, PM
Nigerian students call on stuart to help get programme back on track
There may be some light at the end of the tunnel for the 90 Nigerian students whose nine-month study programme in tourism and agriculture in Barbados was abruptly pulled by their government last month.
Liaison officer for the Barbados Government Derek Murray told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that project co-ordinator for the Nigeria Delta State Youth Empowerment Programme Donna St Hill, who is based in South Africa, was “working on something” that would benefit the students. However, Murray said he was not in a position to provide details.
His comments come against the backdrop of reports that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had been asked to use his good offices to speak with his Nigerian counterparts to get the programme for Barbados back on track.
A spokesman for the students, the majority of whom are currently staying at the Casa Grande Hotel in Oldbury, St Philip, said they had “sent a message” to the Prime Minister asking him to appeal to the Nigerian government to re-think its recent decision.
The spokesman, who did not want to be identified, told Barbados Today the students have also sent correspondence to their government pleading with authorities to resume the programme under which they were to pursue courses of study at the Barbados Community College.
Since the students arrived here last December, they have been embroiled in controversy, first complaining about the standard of accommodation and the quality of food and lack of water at the hotel.
However, a small group of the students subsequently apologized to local and Nigerian authorities for the conduct of their colleagues, saying that some of the complaints were fabricated and asking that the programme be maintained.
“We want to remain here and study. We are interested in studying. We sent a message to the Nigerian government pleading to rethink the programme. We plead with them to let the students who want to study stay here and study and the ones who do not want to study, send them back home,” the students’ spokesman added.
Meanwhile, sources close to the programme informed this newspaper that two senior Nigerian government officials, who had been intimately involved in the Barbados project, had been sacked.
They are Delta State Commissioner for Higher Education Professor Hope Eghagha and Director of Finance Paul Ataime.
It is understood that a new commissioner is now in place and the position of director of finance has been advertised, with an April 15 closing date for applications.
Earlier this month, it was the director of finance who sent emails to the students in Barbados, formally notifying them that the Empowerment Programme had been suspended.
The email read: “I have been directed to inform you, our trainees in Barbados, that in view of the challenges which you currently face on welfare, the admissions process, coupled with certain acts of rudeness exhibited by some of you, government has decided to suspend the Barbados end of the programme.”
Since that notification, five of the students had to be relocated from Casa Grande Hotel to another hotel for their protection and safety, according to an official.
The official has said that those students were being intimidated and even beaten by a very small group of “bad-behaved” colleagues, who have also been accused of orchestrating earlier complaints about accommodation, food and water.