How states relegate bursary, owes backlogs
Bursary payments, over the years, have been a measure adopted by governments, as palliatives for students. From the 1960s to early 2000s, many organisations, federal and state governments gave bursaries to students.
However, in the last few years, the payment has suffered setbacks due to challenges of economic downturn, corruption, lack of political will and misplaced priorities.
States that have not totally jettisoned bursary payments are faced with backlog running into several years.
The Guardian checks of the North Central show that Kwara, Benue and Nassarawa are regular in payment of bursaries. Kogi last paid bursary in May 2018, when it released N98, 565,180 to over 8,000 students across the country. Since then, students have repeatedly made appeal to the state government to pay outstanding bursaries.
It was gathered that three officers of the Kwara State Scholarship Board allegedly diverted state funds to the tune of N100 million earmarked for 2017 and 2018 payment of bursaries to students. Nevertheless, 8,304 final year students, who are indigenes of the state benefited from bursary award of the present administration in 2020.
The state government had opened its portal in July for bursary registration, but it strictly restricted payment to final year students. A check of the site showed that the portal closed on August 7. Plateau, which is one of those that have not paid bursary for years, in January 2020, earmarked N606, 770, 000.00, for the payment of bursaries and scholarships to students studying within and outside the country.
But nothing has been heard about the payment this year.
Nasarawa, in May this year, informed applicants to indicate interest before it later conducted screening in June for payment of 2020/2021 academic session. The state is only paying students who have minimum of 2.5 Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) for degree and HND programmes and 2.00 CGPA for National Certificate of Education (NCE) and National Diploma courses. While those studying Medicine, Pharmacy (and other related courses in medicine), Engineering and students from Aviation College were allowed to apply without CGPA restrictions and from all levels.
Benue State distributed N50m to students from each local government between November 9 and 17, 2020. It is also one of the states that combined bursary payment with scholarship. For instance, the state government paid N200m as backlog in January 2019 for 14,000 students. It awarded N624m worth of scholarships to 23,776 indigenous students studying in 49 tertiary institutions across the country in January 2021.
In the Northeast, none of the six states of Bauchi, Borno, Taraba, Adamawa, Gombe and Yobe is paying bursary to students.
In Adamawa, in lieu of bursary, the state government declared free education for its students. Following the declaration, about 150,000 students from the state applied for scholarship to pursue academic studies in various institutions of learning.
In the Northwest states, only Kaduna and Katsina pay bursaries. In the same vein, Kano is focusing on scholarships. Executive Secretary, Kano State Scholarship Board, Abubakar Zakari, said government had earmarked over N1.8b for payment to students studying in various public higher institutions. He said that another N700m was proposed for the payment of scholarship to its undergraduate students.
Kaduna, in January 2021, announced guidelines for applicants to apply for 2020/2021 bursaries, adding that the verification and payment would be done simultaneously with 2017/2018, 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 batches to clear backlog of arrears.
By end of February, the state government announced it paid N22.6m to 208 students for the 2019/2020 academic session. Each student received N109, 000. At the end of 2020, government said it had paid N236.8m as bursary to students.
The state government said students would not have to subsequently apply yearly for bursaries but will just need to update their profile alongside their academic status.
In March 2021, Katsina State Scholarship Board released the sum of N560, 460,500 to 42,680 students for the 2018/2019 session spread across 110 institutions. Within the period, the government also approved payment of bursaries allowances to 2019/2020 across 129 institution of learning.
In the Southeast, only Abia and Enugu are involved in partial implementation of bursary. Findings showed that in July 2020, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State released N24, 600,000.00 to the state scholarship and education loans board for payment to 246 students of the state at the Nigerian Law School; each beneficiary will get N100, 000, but there was no indication that the state government wanted to extend the gesture to students in other tertiary institutions.
In Abia, the state government is paying only students in state-owned institutions. Worried by the selective treatment, in April, this year, Frank Eme Orji, Zonal Representative, Abia State National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), appealed to the governor to extend bursary allocation of N30, 000, to indigenes in other institutions.
In Ebonyi State, 1,200 students of Ebonyi Local Government Area studying in different tertiary institutions reportedly benefited from the council chairman, Mrs. Chinyere Nwaogbaga’s bursary payment. Law and Medicine students received the sum of N15, 000, while others were paid N10, 000 each.
Earlier in 2019, Akwa Ibom State Government said it would set up a bursary payment system for its indigenes in tertiary institutions. But since the pronouncement, the state government has shifted attention to scholarships for students who are indigenes of the state.
For Delta indigenes, the state was to pay students N19, 500 this year. The application for 2021 batch was made available in April for indigenes with CGPA of 2.20 and above.
In 2019, Delta State Government approved N38m for its indigent students in higher institutions across the country. It also paid students in December 2020, for the 2019/2020 session.
In the Southwest, almost all the states, except Osun, have robust bursary programmes, although Ogun and Osun have challenges paying backlog of arrears.
Worried by the fact that Osun State has failed to pay bursary for several years, students of the state’s tertiary institutions, in June, this year, appealed to Governor Gboyega Oyetola, to implement policies that will be beneficial to indigenous students.
In April 2021, representatives of National Association of Osun State Students (NAOSS), met the deputy governor, Benedict Alabi, over issue of bursary, which they said, has not been paid for several years. National President of the union, Sanusi Abdulwasiu, said the last time bursaries were paid was in 2012.
But some students who spoke on the scheme lamented that most times, duly qualified ones are disqualified from benefitting from the scheme. Others however said payments were haphazard and inconsistent.
For Motilola Akapo, an Ondo State 300-level student of University of Ibadan, in her three years in school, she had only benefited once from the bursary scheme.
Temiloluwa Okeowo, from Osun State, and a 400-level law student of University of Lagos said she had never received any bursary from her state since she gained admission to the university.
Managing Partner, Eastfields Communication and Marketing Services, Victor Kayode, said: “Between 1960 and late 90s, students benefitted immensely from various government bursaries, but the story is not the same again. In fact, in the last decade, most states have tactically withdrawn from payment of bursaries citing reasons such as reduction in monthly allocations from the Federation Account due to internal and external factors, high level of corruption in government circle, diversion of money for grants to white elephant projects, lack of interest to continue with the scheme as a result of political party agenda and giving bursaries based on sentiments and not on merits.
He said there are some states that have tactically suspended the programme while others do it based on availability of funds.
Stressing the need to continue the scheme, Kayode noted that in seeking to promote education, availability of bursary will help students to be more focused in their studies and also help parents invest money they would have used in paying school fees on other viable and laudable projects. He added that bursaries would encourage indigent students to go to school and reduce the burden of school fees.
“Regular payment of bursaries will help students, particularly the indigent ones the opportunity of going to school. It also helped students to get good and qualitative education. For instance, students that could not further their studies due to fund, can apply for education grant to do so. It aids in reduction of dropout of students in our tertiary institutions and bridge the gap between the rich and indigent students, as they will both have the same quality education. It equally helps to raise education standard and aids students’ performance.
“The standard has dropped drastically and for us to get it right again, the issue of bursary, scholarship and improved funding of the educational sector should be taken seriously by the federal, state, local governments and stakeholders.”
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