The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has said that it is addressing plights of some Nigerian lecturers studying in foreign institutions under the TETfund Scholarship for Academic Staff (TSAS) programmes.
The assurance was given in statement by the Acting Director, Public Affairs of TETFund, Abdulmumin Oniyangi, in Abuja on Thursday.
Oniyangi said the lecturers were requesting for bailout to cater for shortfalls in their living expenses occasioned by fluctuations in Foreign Exchange.
He said the TETfund specifically noted appeals from scholars in Malaysia, India and Kenya, some of who had written to the Minister of Education and the fund, requesting for intervention to enable them complete their studies.
“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.
“And 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,” he said.
He added that 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.
According to him, 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 the institutions for retention in domiciliary accounts before transfer to scholars.
He said the aim is to protect 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,” he said.
He added that TETFund had also signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with some foreign institutions to safeguard its scholars and ensure seamless academic activities.
He expressed regret over scholars from beneficiary institutions who fail to open domiciliary accounts and as such were 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,” he explained.
He, therefore, appealed to affected scholars to be patient as the fund concludes individual computations and obtain necessary approvals for the extra budgetary expenditure.