TETFUND Raises Alarm As 137 Students Offered Full Scholarships to Study Abroad Refuse to Return Home
The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has disclosed that 137 of the Nigerian students it offered scholarships to study abroad failed to return to the country.
Sonny Echono, the executive secretary of the education agency, disclosed this development on Tuesday while answering questions posed by members of the House of Representatives committee probing suspected mismanagement of N2.3 trillion tertiary education tax by TETFund.
According to Echono, TETFund might soon discontinue its scholarship programmes because fluctuations in the naira’s value disrupt its disbursement guidelines.
“Some of the scholars that have been sponsored, unpatriotically when they go, they enjoy our scholarship, acquire a higher degree, then refuse to come back, it has become a major crisis,” Echono said.
The fundamental condition of the TETFund scholarship requires beneficiaries to return to give back to the country after their programmes.
“The scholarship requires that you will come back. It is required that you have a guarantor, and, in many cases, the guarantor has suffered undue hardship because when you disappear, we hold the guarantor to pay all the money expended on your behalf, but that has not been effective.
“We believe that in a system where we work with our embassies and the institutions, we can enforce the repayment for those who insist they will not come back,” the TETFund boss said.
“We will write to the embassies and they will make it available to those countries and they will not be able to get jobs. They will be seen as fugitives of law from their countries.
“We may have to take that hard stand because the numbers are alarming. We just checked about 40 institutions and over 137 absconders and the review is ongoing.”
He solicited the support of the lawmakers through policymaking to go hard on defaulters.
“It is a huge number that we cannot afford, and so we will be seeking your support to strengthen some of the existing regulations to ensure that those who benefit from this programme must come back,” he said.
“We are not against people looking for greener pastures, but do so on your own, not through our scholarship or our sponsorship. We operate a system where our forex is being sold on our behalf at an official rate and we apply like anybody else to get it. Sometimes it leads to additional costs.
“Currently as I speak, we are in consultations with all our stakeholders to suspend foreign training for a year or two. This is because of the recent exchange rate adjustments. We are unable to continue based on our disbursement guidelines.
“The money we allocated in naira cannot cover the dollar requirement for training. For those who are currently there, we now need more naira to pay for the dollar that is required for their annual fees. We are trying to put a hold.”
“This way we can retain our resources in-house and cope with the change of foreign exchange variation.”