The Tertiary Education Trust Fund has said it is currently recovering funds from students who won the Federal Government scholarships, but refused to go to the designated countries or pursue the designated programmes.
The Executive Secretary of TETFund, Dr Abdullahi Bichi Baffa, stated this in an interview with journalists in Abuja, while noting that the agency conducted a scholarship audit to detect anomalies in the disbursement of the funds to the intending scholars by higher institutions.
Baffa said the Federal Government had in 10 years sponsored about 22,000 scholars to pursue Masters and Doctors of Philosophy degree programmes in various academic fields in the country and abroad.
He said the projection was that in the next five years TETFund would sponsor about 45,000 scholars for higher degrees.
Baffa said, “An area where I met real mess, on assumption of office, was in the implementation of the TETFund scholarships. The scholarships are part of the capacity building intervention in our universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. But we realised that in some beneficiary institutions, the guidelines for the scholarship awards were being implemented in the breach.
“Beyond violating the guidelines, many of the beneficiary scholars who were given money to pursue their studies abroad refused to go and they spent the money on something else. We further realised that a few institutions were not giving the scholars the total sum of money that was approved for them. They deducted certain percentages using different sort of names like administrative charges, and all sorts of illegal deductions.
“There are also scholars that were given the approval to go to Europe or America, for example, but they end up going to some African countries. Some scholars were given the permission to do Ph.D., but they registered for a Masters degree. The worst of them all were scholars who collected the money and refused to go.
“What we did was to conduct what we call scholarship audit. Right now, we are making progress with the recovery of funds from some scholars who had collected the money but refused to go. Also, funds are being recovered from scholars that were given approval to go for one programme and they ended up going for another one. Similarly, funds are being recovered from scholars that were given money to go to one country and they ended up going to another country.”
Speaking on interventions brought to higher institutions, the TETFund secretary said the Federal Government was committed to revamping the education sector.
“We have the Library Development Fund. The Library Development Fund was established to support the stocking of our libraries with books, journals and other periodicals in both hard and electronic copies. We have also done the Access Clinic. The Access Clinic was meant to help our beneficiary institutions to be able to know the outstanding amount of money from what was allocated to them; what they are yet to access from TETFund; and for us to find out about the impediments,” he added.
Although Baffa noted that each university got N300m to pay the students who won the Federal Government scholarships, he did not specify the amount recovered from runaway scholars or their number.
He said, “In 2017, we gave each university N300m, each polytechnic N200m and each college of education N200m to support scholars aspiring to pursue higher degrees at home and abroad. These were the highest sums of money ever given out since the establishment of TETFund.”