The Leader for the Sierra Leonean students studying in Pakistan continues to call on the government of Sierra Leone’s intervention over the nonpayment of their annual stipend due from the government for the 2021/2022 academic year that has ended.

Speaking to Politico, Abu Macavoray said that they continue to go through challenges in their studies given the nature of the scholarship package. “Life has become unbearable as our stipend from HEC is Twenty thousand Pakistani Rupees ($100 US) for Ph.D. and MPhil/Master’s students and ten thousand Rupees ($50 US) for undergraduate students,” he said.

This according to him is not in tune with the economic realities in Pakistan.

“Our colleagues in other countries with better scholarship conditions have been paid for this academic year that has just ended, and we are yet to get our own stipends. Besides, no one is responding to the inquiries we have been making so far concerning these monies,” he said.

He said the scholarship does not cover medical allowance or research for post-graduate students (MPhil & Ph.D.).

The scholarship Macavoray noted is partially provided by the Pakistani government that pays the tuition fees and the monthly stipends. That, he said is for all levels of studies including the MPhil & Ph.D. students, while the Sierra Leone government gives $1,800 per annum to each student as part of its contribution to the programme.

“The stipend from our government is what we rely on to augment our stay. Our authorities didn’t understand the prevailing conditions here. We’ve been through a lot of embarrassments, always asking for loans from our university authorities, to be paid when our stipends are released onto us,” he said.

He explained that the security situation in Pakistan cannot allow them to take up jobs as they are restricted within their campuses or are accompanied by security personnel even on a private errand outside their universities due to security reasons, making them rely solely on the allowances from the government.

“Payment of our stipends at the start of the academic year (August or September), or calendar year (January) can go a long way in alleviating the tremendous stress and embarrassment we are exposed to. Receiving our stipend early can help in footing medical bills, augment our feeding, and support research work for most especially postgraduate students,” he said.

He therefore pleaded with the government of President Julius Maada Bio who continues to champion human capital development, to look into their situation and ensure the delay in payment of their stipends becomes a thing of the past.

In an interview with Politico in June this year, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education, Gilbert Cooper said the case of the Sierra Leonean students in Pakistan was not an isolated one and that the government has about 400 students on scholarship in Russia, China, Cuba, and other harder to reach countries around the world who are in similar situations and that the government is not insensible to their plights.

However, he said due to the prevailing economic situation in the country, the Ministry of Finance has to prioritise expenditure but also stated that the allowances had now been approved by the Ministry of Finance and that they were working on processing the relevant documents so that availanle funds will be transferred to the various missions where they have students.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Leonean students in the Russian Federation who were in the same situation have confirmed receipt of payment of their allowances for the 2021/2022 academic year.