…Calls for Review of Scholarship Policy
By Chuks Okocha, Special Assistant (Print Media) to the President of the Senate
President of the Senate Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki on Wednesday met with representatives of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) responsible for the welfare of Nigerian Students on scholarships abroad now stranded due to non-payment of their living allowances and tuition fees by relevant government agencies.
The Senate in plenary had mandated the President of the Senate to intervene and know why Nigerian students on scholarships in foreign countries are yet to be paid their scholarship funds.
Saraki at the meeting which was attended by the Senate Leader, Deputy Senate Leader, Chairman Senate Committees on Tertiary Education and TETFUND and other Senators directed the Federal Scholarship Board (FSB) to urgently present a comprehensive report of all Nigerian students on scholarship abroad and their outstanding entitlements to the relevant committees of the Senate to enable the Senate make Appropriations for their settlement.
While saying that the Senate committees after due consideration of of the reports would make recommendations to the Senate on how to clear the backlogs through appropriation, he called for a comprehensive review of scholarship policies in the country so as to save the nation from future embarrassment.
According to Saraki the meeting was called to enable the leadership of the Senate and heads of relevant agencies put heads together on a matter of pressing concern, which is the welfare of Nigerian students on scholarships who are stranded abroad due to the inability to fulfill the country’s responsibilities to these students, and meet their needs.
“As some of you may know, I was in Russia last month to participate at the 137th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), and I heard first-hand the plight of our students for whom the expected scholarship funding has dried up,” Saraki said. “The overwhelming feeling on the part of these students is one of abandonment by their motherland.”
He said that the outstanding students allowances needed to be settled urgently to save them from untold hardship.
“This feeling of abandonment is one that we must move quickly to dissipate, by working urgently to alleviate the difficulties faced by these students,” Saraki stated. “We must look for ways to reestablish the pipelines and remove the bottlenecks, so that our students who went abroad with the promise and assurance of scholarship funding, will get their stipends as and when due.”
He lamented that several brilliant Nigerian students on federal scholarships are languishing abroad due to the inability of the Federal Government to pay its counterpart funding of the scholarships awarded under bilateral agreements with with foreign governments
“Under the Bilateral Education Agreement (BEA) entered into by Nigeria and several foreign governments, some of the host countries have responsibility for part of the upkeep of Nigerian students – while Nigeria must necessarily fulfill her own part,” Saraki said. “There is a need for the MDAs to look at our responsibility to our students in the different countries, and devise ways of making good on our part of such agreements.”
He added: “We must recognise that these students scattered that are currently in dire conditions all over the world, represent a sizable component of the future of Nigeria – her dreams of progress and development.
“This is another kind of brain drain, The worst part is, this is a brain drain that benefits no one, not even foreign countries. We are not even losing the best of these students to foreign lands – we are in danger of losing them, period. If we don’t rectify this situation – let me put it bluntly – we would be sacrificing their futures; and that, is unthinkable.”
The Director in charge of Scholarship at the Federal Scholarship Board (FSB), Fatima Ahmad, had earlier told the Senators than there is an outstanding of N2.4 Billion in scholarships yet to be settled by the Board due to inadequate or lack of budgetary provisions.
She stated that for the year 2015 and 2016 that there was an outstanding scholarship allowance to the tune of N799.8 million, out of which Ñ444.2 million has been paid leaving balance of Ñ355.6million.
In his reaction, the President of the Senate directed the FSB to prepare a comprehensive report on the outstanding allowances and tuition and submit to the education committees to enable the Senate make provision for its settlement in the budget.
He however enjoined the FSB to imbibe the spirit of transparency and federal character in the award of all federal scholarships.