Fourteen South Sudanese nationals, who graduated Friday at the National University of Science and Technology in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, say they are stranded following their government’s failure to provide them air tickets to return home.
Their representative, Makuei Maker Chuny, said they have no food and accommodation due to lack of funds.
He told VOA Zimbabwe Service that they have tried in vain to get help from the Sudanese Embassy in Harare with indications that they won’t get help anytime soon.
“We have been here for six years and government was supposed to provide us two-way tickets, coming and going. Already we have only used one ticket, that is, coming from South Sudan to Zimbabwe … This is a very desperate situation. The school now is going to be closed, there would be no water supply on campus, no electricity. How can you survive? Moreover, we used to have a warden here but now there is no warden. We will be left in the building alone and it’s not good for our health.
“We are asking the government of South Sudan to provide us with air tickets as soon as possible. This should be done before the end of this week. We want to go home. If they don’t do that, we are going to occupy the embassy (South Sudan) as we have been doing because we are compelled by the situation. At the embassy it’s also not convenient for us. This should be a good ending. It should not be a bad ending. We have been struggling, we have been suffering here. They have not been consistent in sending money and sometimes we were evicted … We are urging our government to help us.”
Chuny said it was unimaginable that his nation is failing to pay air tickets for few students.
“We are very few. We are 14 only. How can the whole nation fail to transport for 14 people? We thought this was not going to take even a week. I have written to many offices for two months asking them to provide tickets to my student colleagues but nothing has been done.
"Our government hasn’t told us when they are going to provide us with tickets. I have been trying to communicate but nothing has come out clearly. So, I’m using this happening (graduation ceremony) in the presence of South Sudanese students in Zimbabwe to urge the government of South Sudan to provide our (air) tickets as soon as possible.”
He said they are ready to help their nation with skills they have acquired in Zimbabwe.
“We don’t want to be still here next week when we are already done with school. We have a lot of things. We have a lot of things that we can provide the country. The country does not have water supplies and here I’m with the skills which I’m able to provide. I was working with Bulawayo City Council and the (water) stations where I was are already operational. So, it is wise for the government of South Sudan to give us air tickets so we can go home quickly and then we settle and work on how we can deliver these services based on the skills that we have acquired in Zimbabwe.”
Chuny said the South Sudanese president should intervene as education officials are not helping them.
“… We are asking our president Salva Kiir (Mayardit) who is the one who provided us with these scholarships and he still has the powers to take us back home. It’s not good for someone who has graduated to remain in the same place.”
He claimed that the country’s representatives in Zimbabwe have not been able to pay the air tickets for the students, who are desperate to go home.
“We have spoken to him (ambassador) but he dosen’t have the powers. He has been trying to go around asking people to assist but no one has responded as of now. I have also sent a delegation of those that graduated last year who are in Juba to pursue this issue of tickets but they have been thrown out of some offices, which is not good.
“We are not begging, we are citizens of South Sudan, we were brought here legally with the approval of the parliament of South Sudan and that whenever we finish here we will have our return tickets. Why are there no return tickets when we are done with the graduation."
South Sudanese officials in Harare did not respond to calls and messages sent on their mobile phones about the students’ plight.
According to Ethiopian Airways, an air ticket from Zimbabwe to South Sudan costs almost US$400 per person.