Kenyan students caught up in Cyprus crossfire

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A standoff in Cyprus has derailed dreams of many Kenyan students pursuing and seeking to undertakehigher education in the country.

The political squabble between breakaway state Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and Cyprus has left education of the tens of Kenyan students in limbo, with many in dilemma whether to continue studying for their degrees in the former or quit after having paid thousands of shillings.

TRNC with the help of Turkey seceded from Cyprus, which is mainly occupied by Greeks in 1975 and became independent in 1988. The northern Cyprus state is recognised mainly by Turkey and its allies, but not South Cyprus.

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TRNC operates independently and thus its universities have been aggressively marketing themselves in Kenya to recruit students.

Notable ones include Cyprus International University (CIU) and East Mediterranean University (EMU). The universities are accredited by TRNC and Turkey education authorities.

However, Cyprus does not recognise the universities, and thus through its embassy in Nairobi warned Kenyans that the institutions are ‘illegal’.

Pay fees

“Under the law, the Turkish Cypriot universities operating in the area of Cyprus are unlawful educational institutions,” warned (Greek) Cypriot High Commissioner Agis Loizou in a statement early this year. “We are warning that Cyprus International University is not accredited or recognised by the ministry of education and culture in the republic of Cyprus.

The caution made Kenya’s Commission for University Education to warn citizens against seeking education in TRNC, as its universities are not accredited.

However, tens of Kenyan students were already undertaking undergraduate and graduate courses in northern Cyprus universities, particularly CIU and EMU.

The students are now caught between an anvil and a hammer. They do not know whether to continue pursuing their education in TRNC, and thereafter obtain certificates that will not be recognised back home or quit after paying fees.

“It is a tough choice to make because I am about to complete my course,” says Samson Ikohe, a Masters student at CIU in a recent interview. Ikohe is studying Engineering Management, a course that he could not get in Kenya. He paid about Sh400,000 for the 18 months course.

“It worries me that I am busy studying here yet my papers will be rejected by authorities at home. But I cannot quit because I know I am getting top quality education and the university I am in is not bogus. Besides that, I have paid all the fees,” he says.

Ikohe, as many other Kenyans at the university, understands the political wrangles between north Cyprus and South Cyprus, and that is what is keeping him going.

“I know the standoff between the two states has killed some of my friends’ dreams, but in life, sometimes you have to make the tough choices to succeed,” he says, adding that he chose to continue with his studies at CIU after learning that the university is recognised by Unesco.

Stay on

Amina Swaleh is another Kenyan studying in TRNC. The first year student said the revelation that the universities in TRNC are bogus shocked her. “I was surprised and felt like going back home. However, I talked to my father and he is the one who encouraged me to stay on,” says Swaleh, who is studying business management. Swaleh adds she could not get ies in Kenya because of high cut off points. Nahim Hersi, who is undertaking a Masters in Business Administration degree, notes information that universities in northern Cyprus are illegal sent shockwaves among Kenyan students. “I know of two students who quit because of that. Kenyans have experiences about bogus colleges back home so they did not want to go through such a predicament. But I stayed because I want to transit to UK to do my PhD. CIU has linkages with British universities,” she says.

Prof Mehmet Ali Yukselen, CIU Rector, notes it is wrong for TRNC differences with Cyprus to spill to Kenya’s higher education scene, killing dreams of many students seeking affordable education. “When the news came out, we had difficulties convincing Kenyan students who are studying here that we are not a bogus university.

But we talked to them and they understood. There are about 50 Kenyan students here,” he says.

Resolve issue

As an independent state, Yukselen noted that TRNC does not need to register their universities with South Cyprus authorities.

“Universities in North Cyprus seek accreditation from the National Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the Higher Education, Planning, Accreditation and Coordination Council. Turkey also recognises all our universities and othercolleges,” says the Rector, who adds that they mainly have the certificationchallenge in Kenya.

Yukselen says he feels the pain of Kenyan students, but he is in touch with authorities to resolve the issue.

“I am in communication with Commission of University Education in Kenya, through our Ministry of Education. We hope we will be able to eliminate the challenges. It is illegal to punish students who are genuinely seeking higher education in a foreign nation,” says Yukselen. – Xinhua

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