Basseterre, St. Kitts, April 03, 2017 (SKNIS): Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, met with a group of Nigerian students studying medicine at Windsor University School of Medicine on Saturday April 1 on the university’s campus in Brighton Estate, Cayon, St. Kitts.
Prime Minister Harris said that he met with the students to give a listening ear to the students’ experience in St. Kitts and Nevis.
“We want to learn more about you, your circumstances…that we may be able to improve upon your situation. Basically, this is a listening tour to get a sense of some of the issues and therefore to see where possible, if we can, implement policy options that would bring relief and that would make sure that your stay here is as productive as it can be,” said Prime Minister Harris.
President of the Nigerian Student Association at Windsor University, Uchendu Julian Duru, informed the prime minister that a number of Nigerian students enrolled at Windsor University are experiencing financial difficulties in paying their tuition and accommodation due to economic recession in Nigeria, which he said is the major problem experienced at this time.
“Thank you very much for making the time to see the Nigerian students. We want to say we’ve had a quality experience here on the island. It’s pretty much safe and we move around freely without having to think about security all the time. It is a beautiful island,” Mr. Duru told the prime minister.
“It is true that we have some economic situations back home, economic situations that are politically affected, with policies that are not favourable to people who study abroad,” Mr. Duru said. Most of the students here basically have problems with transmitting money from Nigeria to St. Kitts—more than half of the students. The means through which we used to transmit money was put on hold at a particular point in time, and after a while it was made very, very difficult. We are supposed to be able to access funds through direct exchange from our Central Bank where it is made easily available to students and people who wish to travel outside the country.”
Mr. Duru said that recent economic developments in Nigeria have created a situation where “most students here find it very difficult to remit their fees on time.” Because of the devaluation of the Nigerian Naira and the problem at the country’s Central Bank, he said that people have had to resort to purchasing US dollars on the black market. One US dollar is equivalent to NGN 306.35.
“Most parents send their children here on a planned budget, so when the crisis came in it shook a lot of people. Some people are able to scale through it and some others are finding it very difficult. Some of us have experienced at some point in time stoppage from attending classes and going to school,” Mr. Duru said.
Other matters discussed included the possibility of temporary work permits for students, extension of stay on the island, security and safety issues, and bilateral relations between St. Kitts and Nevis and Nigeria.
Prime Minister Harris assured the students that he will take their matters to the Cabinet for discussion.
“I would have taken note of some of the issues raised and we will see how we can advance them through resolutions both with the leadership of your school and certainly those matters that are actionable by the government, we would consider given the circumstances,” Dr. Harris said. He also challenged the students to do more to assimilate themselves into the Kittitian and Nevisian society and culture.
“I want to wish all of you well in your studies and hope that your experience here in St. Kitts has been a wonderful one so far, and in any event, we would want you to bring your studies to a successful completion and to pursue the career path that you would have chosen for yourselves. I want to say thanks for choosing to come to study in our beautiful country and thanks for choosing Windsor also. We are a welcoming country and a hospitable people. Whatever we can do to make your stay easier and more comfortable, we are committed to doing so,” he added.