Nigerian students abroad omitted in N3.8 bn scholarship disbursement

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An unspecified but large number of Nigerian scholars currently on the sponsorship of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) abroad have been omitted in the disbursement of funds, despite the government’s recent ₦3.8 billion bailout.

The scholars who are on various studies abroad claimed through their representatives that even those who received the funds are at a disadvantage going by inflation other current economic realities.

EduCeleb.com recalls that the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Sonny Echono, had in May declared that N3.8billion was the bailout for Nigerian scholars who had sought for the Federal Government’s intervention.

He had added that the bailout was for 1,500 Nigerian scholars who had been abroad since 2017 till date.

However, Kamal A. Odunjo-Saka, the Chairman of the scholars in a statement on Monday, noted that the development had subjected scholars to harsh conditions amidst the current economic realities.

The Chairman who said TETFund told them that some were not qualified, based on programme status, when they were approached, asserting that there was no segregation of scholars or any discrepancies during the agreement of conditions for bailout.

He explained that they had witnessed instances where TETFund paid scholars who even completed their programme as early as 2022, and yet refused to pay both ongoing and the recently completed scholars, who had run into severe financial crises.

They appealed to President Tinubu to urgently come to their rescue by prevailing on TETFund to disburse their funds accordingly.

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The statement reads in part; “I am writing on behalf of all the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) sponsored foreign scholars who were omitted from the payment of the recently approved Presidential Bailout to all TETFund foreign scholars within the year 2017 – 2023.

“Initially, the bailout was designed as a measure to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Naira devaluation/exchange rate, and particularly, inflation in the cost of living on scholars, hence the reason for the timeframe under review (2017 – 2023) considering that scholars within this period are grossly affected.

“TETFund has been a cornerstone in supporting higher education in Nigeria, providing essential financial aid for infrastructure, research, and academic staff development. We sincerely appreciate the generous bailout approved by Mr. President, His Excellence, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as this would alleviate the burden on Scholars. However, our confidence in the fair implementation of the disbursement has been severed.

“Currently, about 45 percent of the TETFund sponsored foreign scholars were omitted in the disbursement of the presidential-approved bailout by TETFund, subjecting scholars to harsh conditions amidst the current economic realities.

“While we tried to engage TETFund to ensure fairness in the disbursement, scholars were told that some are not qualified, based on programme status, while our recent request for engagement was turned down by the Fund. Meanwhile, both scholars on their programme and those recently completed were unjustly omitted without any tangible justification provided.

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“Initially, there were no segregation of scholars or any discrepancies during the agreement of conditions for bailout. Also, both ongoing and completed Scholars were paid during the first and second tranches of the disbursed bailout paid between January to March 2024.

“This includes scholars across Europe, Asia, America and other part of the globe, while TETFund refused to pay fellow scholars in the same categories with no concrete justification. Additionally, we strongly believe that the alien criteria of ongoing and completed does not hold through in the case of scholars due to many reasons, including the fact that all scholars under review are affected by COVID-19 or Naira devaluation.

“For instance, a 2019 PhD scholar, affected by COVID-19 upon resumption to his school, subjected to quarantine, naira devaluation (from 250 naira per dollar in 2019 to 450 naira in 2020 and over 1,500 in 2023) and post COVID-19 inflation, this is aside from flight fare that has exponentially increased.

“This shows that such scholars under review (as generously considered by the Presidency) have witnessed severe financial crises and harsh economic realities.

“To buttress, we have witnessed instances where TETFund paid scholars who even completed their program as early as 2022, and yet refused to pay both ongoing and the recently completed scholars, who have run into severe financial crises.

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“Aside from the ongoing and completed cases, TETFund has also omitted Foreign sponsored scholars on Benchwork and Post Doctoral programs within this same time frame, who had been subjected to equal economic hardship in foreign land. Currently, most omitted scholars are either in debt or battling with depression, due to the harsh financial situations caused by their omission from the Presidential approved bailout.

“Therefore, we humbly appeal for the express intervention of the Mr President and the disbursement of the bailout to all categories of scholars (Masters, PhD, Benchwork and Post Doctoral research) within the year under review (2017 – 2023).

“Once again, we sincerely appreciate the President, His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for his fatherly love towards all TETFund Foreign Scholars and the generous bailout approval.

“Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. I look forward to seeing these concerns addressed promptly and effectively,” the statement reads in part.

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