Africa: The Plight of African Students Stuck in Ukraine – “We Really Need to Go Home”

As Russia opens humanitarian corridors from several Ukrainian main cities, hundreds of African and Indian students trapped in the eastern city of Sumy hope that they will finally escape the last 12 days of hell. Nigerian medicine student, Precious Olawale, described her traumatic experience to RFI.

“We really, really need to go home. We wake up to the sounds of bombs. More than five bombs went off on Saturday as at early as 5 am. All of us are just sick and tired. People are crying, some have had panic attacks,” 21-year-old Precious Olawale told RFI.

A fourth-year medicine student at Sumy State University, she certainly did not expect this nightmare when she left her hometown of Abeokuta, in the southwestern Ogun State in Nigeria, three years ago.

Olawale says there are around 400 Nigerian students stranded in Sumy who “have had to stay in bunkers 20 out of 24 hours” because they are scared for their lives.

African students in Sumy are protesting for the Ukrainian Army to allow them leave the town.

The students were chanting, “Let us go home,” “we do not want to be part of your war,I don’t want to be used as bait.

They say Ukrainian Army is blocking their escape #UkraineRussianWar pic.twitter.com/zMak01oGK1

Russia’s defence ministry announced a ceasefire on Monday to allow evacuation of civilians through humanitarian corridors from Ukraine’s main cities, including Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Sumy.

Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, tweeted on Sunday that the Nigerian students will be evacuated on Monday. But the “big challenge”, he wrote, is “procuring buses” for the north-eastern town of Sumy, some 50 kilometres from the Russian border.

1/2 Deep gratitude to @DmytroKuleba, Foreign Minister of Ukraine for approval given, as promised, to establish humanitarian corridor and authorize evacuation of Nigerian students from Sumy starting tomorrow.

On Monday morning, Olawale told RFI that she has not heard anything about a possible evacuation.

“We are waiting. We don’t know exactly when we can leave.”

She said that the students who have been evacuated are those who have managed to cross the border into Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.

The African and Indian students in Sumy have been unable to leave so far because the roads are blocked and the trains have stopped running.

“There are also military checkpoints where students are sent back when they try to leave,” she said. “Someone told us it was by Ukrainian soldiers.”

On Monday morning, Olawale told RFI that her anxiety levels were far too high for her to have a proper sleep.

“My well-being is in shambles. Our living conditions are really bad because our food is running out. We’ve had no water for three, four days and we had to melt snow to get water.

“There was a time when electricity was out and we couldn’t charge phones, we couldn’t reach our families until it was fixed.”

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