The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) says is working on increasing the rates of living expenses to its scholars in Malaysia, India, among others, as a result of decline in the value of naira.
In a statement signed by TETFund’s Acting Director of Public Affairs, Abdulmumin Oniyangi, in response to recent appeals by the scholars, said the already incurred shortfalls in living expenses of the scholars are also being computed for payment, assured the scholars that there is no cause of alarm.
It read in full : “The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) wishes to address recent concerns raised by some stakeholders over the plight of some Nigerian lecturers studying in foreign institutions under the TETFund Scholarship for Academic Staff (TSAS) programme, who are requesting for bailout by the Fund to cater for shortfalls in their living expenses occasioned by fluctuations in Foreign Exchange.
The Fund specifically notes appeals from scholars in Malaysia, India and Kenya, some of whom have written to the Honourable Minister of Education and the Fund, requesting for intervention to enable them complete their studies in their respective institutions.
It is instructive to note that upon the introduction of the TSAS programme in 2008, full tuition and living expenses of scholars were disbursed directly by TETFund to their employers i.e. the Fund’s Beneficiary Institutions, who were expected as part of TETFund guidelines to warehouse approved training cost in respect of foreign scholarship in domiciliary accounts; and then disburse tuition to approved foreign institutions of study and living expenses into scholars’ foreign accounts upon receipt of progress report on academic standing.
However, due to complaints by numerous scholars and certain observations on non-compliance to stipulated guidelines by Beneficiary Institutions, the mode of disbursement was reviewed in August 2019. With the review, TETFund commenced direct payment of tuition to foreign training institutions to mitigate the issue of exchange rate fluctuations, while disbursement of living expenses was still made to Beneficiary Institutions for retention in domiciliary accounts before transfer to scholars, as a way of protecting the scholarship bond signed with their employers. Based on the foregoing, TETFund has been up to date in tuition payment to the training institutions of all affected scholars and indeed other institutions where TETFund scholars undergo various programmes.
It is pertinent to state that despite the requirement of operating domiciliary accounts for living expenses of foreign scholars, some Beneficiary Institutions still kept such funds in local currency. Consequently, due to non-compliance to this requirement, scholars are often cut up on volatility of foreign exchange arising from the practice of keeping their stipends in local currency. To address this anomaly, TETFund with effect from 2022, commenced payment of living expenses directly to scholars after the first year until the end of the programme, with the burden of exchange rate variation borne by the Fund. TETFund has also signed Memoranda of Understanding with some foreign institutions to safeguard its scholars and ensure seamless academic activities.
While it is regrettable that scholars from Beneficiary Institutions that fail to open domiciliary accounts are most affected by the current impasse, the Fund has taken a position not to punish the scholars for non-compliance by their home institutions. Accordingly, the shortfalls in living expenses of the scholars are currently being computed by the Fund. This will be paid directly to eligible scholars and recovered from subsequent allocations of affected Beneficiary Institutions.
Furthermore, given the steady rise in the cost of living index in these foreign countries, the Management of TETFund has also proposed increase in the rates of living expenses to scholars with effect from the 2023/2024 Academic year.
This exercise is ongoing and we appeal to affected scholars to be patient as we conclude individual computations and obtain necessary approvals for the extra budgetary expenditure.
To douse the apprehension of affected scholars, the Executive Secretary of TETFund held a virtual meeting with the affected scholars and Management decisions towards resolving the impasse have been communicated accordingly.
We sincerely express our deep appreciation to our stakeholders, including the media who have shown concern over the issue and seize this opportunity to reassure all that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is empathic to the plight of our scholars and directed a speedy resolution of the matter. The Fund is also committed to implementing the Academic Staff Training programme with a deep sense of responsibility, transparency and accountability.”