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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

African students demand stipend hikes With prices rocketing, dorm life has become a battle for survival

For the seventh consecutive day, Samuel Omandi awoke inside his shanty beside litter and militia guards at the doorstep of the Kenyan Embassy. The 25-year-old agriculture student is one of 15 Kenyans protesting the low stipend he receives as a student in Moscow


"I will stay here as long as there are no positive results", Omandi said Wednesday "Our government has closed its ears to our demand for money".


For the last seven months African students like Omandi have been making independent pleas to embassy officials for more funds, but have seen little results Over the last two weeks the students have stepped up their lobbying efforts by forming united fronts on the doorsteps of more than seven African embassies in Moscow.


Omandi says he can no longer live on his paltry 370-ruble monthly stipend meted out by the Russian government. Omandi, like thousands of African students studying in the former Soviet Union, has become caught in the crossfire of change. As Russia struggles to catch up with other first world economies, students dependent on stipends set under the defunct Soviet system can't survive.


Dan Ogada, who has one more year until he graduates, says his 390-ruble monthly allotment is eaten up after one trip to the market. He can no longer afford to fly home to get funds from his family. Instead, he says, he must beg and borrow money just to stay alive.


Protesters say their money problems are no longer an issue for Russia's Education Ministry. Rather, it is time for their own governments to step in and solve the problem.


"They sent me here", said Abrahi Yeriman from Benin. "They have to help me "


Most African students is not here by choice. Instead they were hand-picked by their governments, some of which were former Soviet satellites. Many cannot return to study, as the Russian system of education is incompatible with the course work taught in their home lands.


"We are not asking for much", said Okoth Sylvester, who has just finished his first year at Moscow's Patrice LaMumba University "Kenya is one of the richest African nations, but they have not given us a single dollar".


Poverty-stricken Ethiopia has been unable to dole out money to its citizens here. Though a three-week hunger strike waged by Ethiopian students captured the attention of embassy officials, it achieved little else.


"We understand their difficulties and are trying to get the government to help", said Getachew Todesse, first secretary for the Ethiopian Embassy. "But we have nothing in our own economy".


Todesse said his country has appealed to the United Nation to assist the 1, 500 Ethiopian students stranded in the former Soviet Union.


A spokesman from Niger's embassy said he understands that the stipends amount to nothing, but doesn't have much hope that more money will comeforth. "It's difficult at home", he said.


Other countries have been less willing to listen, causing tensions between the two camps to erupt into violence. In some cases, embassies have called in Russian militia to haul protestors away.


Militia and students who clashed at the Kenyan Embassy last week were injured. So were demonstrators from Benin, who were locked out of their embassy by shoddy barricades and policemen.


"They told us that if we don't stop meeting they will beat us", said Carlos


Quenum from a park next to Benin's embassy on Uspensky Pereulok. He and 50 other protesters still refuse to leave.


A cluster of 100 Ugandan students have camped out behind their embassy's gate for days. Ronald Turivera, president of the Ugandan student's union, said he has met with the ambassador to plead his case.


"The ambassador said the government is preparing money for us", Turivera said. "But we don't know how much or when we will get it. They just keep saying the check is coming".