Scholarships a Hope and Misfortune for Some
A confusing process of verification leads some scholarship candidates to worry for their futures.
2010-11 Winter Quarterly Issue
Few of the candidates who wish to continue their higher education in Canada find their names classified under police ads for wanted criminals in the local newspapers. But this year, the golden opportunity that offers 30 students one-way flights to Canada turned into an alarming source of insecurity for four young Congolese who applied for the studies.
As part of the routine scholarship process, the Windle Charitable Trust (WCT) agency that offers the refugee scholarship called for document verifications from the Congolese Embassy in Nairobi. But this time, WCT may have misused its wisdom in handling refugee matters by sending the candidates’ secondary school certificates, or ‘diplome d’ etat’, to the Congolese Embassy in Nairobi.
This year, a good number of candidates passed pre-recruitment interviews to be awarded the scholarship. But in the end the organization either requested the candidates to go and secure their own admissions, or to change the faculty that seemed inexpensive.
A good number found their own ways to get money to travel to different Universities to secure this requested admission with success. But after toiling for the request, in many cases they were told to continue waiting for many years without realizing their dreams.
Over the years, the scholarship-administering organization has suffered allegations for corrupted policy in recruiting students or using refugee-designated funds to sponsor relatives of some of the managers of this organization.
Last year, young men who presented their secondary school certificates and had no issues beforehand, were suddenly terminated because they did not have UNHCR Mandate. (This is a document issued to a person who satisfies UNHCR eligibility criteria for legal refugee status.)
Having passed the interviews, young men applied and passed several further procedural rounds. “I know there was only one test to pass,” one of the candidates said. “But surprisingly, the UNHCR Community Services Unit and WCT told us to pay money to facilitate sending our documents for verification.”
Although they did not pay the amount, the candidates were told to wait until documents were to be brought back to Kakuma. In case they were genuine, then the three francophone students were to be picked to join the other pool selected earlier.
On November 10, the applicants were told to be careful because their names were in the local newspapers and anybody who saw them was to handle them “manomilitary” and report them to the nearest police station.
UNHCR and other organizations concerned with the protection of refugees have so far been unable to identify the person who published these names in the newspapers. The refugees say it is their Embassy who did it after discovering that they were in the camp, but on the other hand, UNHCR says it is possible that one of the applicants did it. In either case, these refugees are now under threat of being tortured or harassed following the publications.
In a similar incident reported to KANERE, some students who applied for 2011 World University Service Canada (WUSC) Scholarship from Ethiopian Nationals complained over what they described as ‘threat of exposure’ when their certificates were to be referred to the Ethiopian Embassy. They were informed that they did not merit scholarships because their Ethiopian school leaving certificates (ESLC) had different colors. The students argued that the change in color varies from year to year depending on examinations in the country of origin.
Students were shocked when a UNHCR official told them that their certificates were to be sent to the Ethiopian Embassy through Kenyan Migration to be proven free from alterations. “We need scholarship but not our location to be known to the Ethiopian Embassy. I wonder if that is what the UNHCR should do,” said an Ethiopian Oromo student in an interview with KANERE.
The candidates also informed KANERE that they received copies of the same official document from UNHCR informing each applicant to pay 2,000 Kenyan shillings for their documents to be sent to the Ethiopian Embassy for what was described as verification. None of these Oromo speakers were granted the same scholarship opportunity from Kakuma to attend the WUSC classes for 2011.