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Inflation: TETFund increases living expenses of scholars on foreign scholarship

…appeals for calm among scholars abroad

From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has proposed a significant increase in the rates of living expenses to scholars on its foreign scholarship programme with effect from the 2023/2024 academic year.

This, according to TETFund, was as a result of strong variation in exchange rate which has, unfortunately, weakened the value of the local currency (Naira), as well as other financial challenges in their host countries.

Executive Secretary of TETFund, Sonny Echono, in a statement, on Thursday, confirmed that several complaints were received from some Nigerian lecturers studying in foreign institutions under the TETFund Scholarship for Academic Staff (TSAS) programme, particularly from scholars in Malaysia, India and Kenya, requesting for intervention to enable them complete their studies in their respective institutions

He said the scholars requested for bailout to cater for shortfalls in their living expenses occasioned by fluctuations in foreign exchange.

Abdulmumin Oniyangi, the Acting Director of Public Affairs, TETFund, who signed the statement on behalf of the Executive Secretary, confirmed that TETFund was working on modalities to resolve the issues as soon as possible, and appealed for calm from the affected scholars.

He said: “Upon the introduction of the TSAS programme in 2008, full tuition and living expenses of scholars were disbursed directly by TETFund to their employers (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 and living expenses into scholars’ domiciliary 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.”

He, however, confirmed that TETFund has been up to date in tuition payment to the training institutions of all affected scholars and other institutions where TETFund scholars undergo various programmes.

He said that despite the requirement of operating domiciliary accounts for living expenses of foreign scholars, some beneficiary institutions still kept funds in local currency which often result in scholars being 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 operate 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,” Oniyangi said.

He confirmed that the shortfalls in living expenses of the scholars are currently being computed by the Fund with assurance that it will be paid directly to eligible scholars.

He appealed to affected scholars to be patient while the individual computations are ongoing, even as they obtain necessary approvals for the extra budgetary expenditure.