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Students grief as states abandon bursary


Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu<br />

• Rivers Owing Three Years Arrears, Cross River Over 10 Years  
• Bursary Last Paid By Edo Government In 2008, Says No Resources For It
• Lagos Pays Late, But Consistent
• Ogun Keeps Mum Over Three Years Arrears

Time was when bursary was a social intervention used to alleviate circumstances of indigent students. In fact, in the 1980s 1990s and early 2000s, many states of the federation were actively involved in bursary payment.Now, the economic downturn, lack of political will, misplaced priorities, as well as, widespread corrupt practices have joined forces to deny students this critical intervention scheme.

The few states that have not abolished the initiative are struggling with backlog of arrears, which runs into a number of years. Abia State is one of the states where bursary payment has become history. And in the absence of a formal bursary payment system to students, what now obtains is the state government giving support to indigent or needy students, who apply and get the state governor’s approval. 

The amount given is normally at the discretion of the governor, based on the individual applicant’s circumstances, and need at the time of his application.Going by this, bursary or education support is given to lucky applicants, who have access to the state governor.The state Commissioner for Education, Prof Ikechi Mgbeoji, described the practice as ad hoc, stressing that it is far from being ideal.

According to him, the state scholarship board has been reconstituted while the extant state law on scholarship is being reviewed.The commissioner expressed optimism that with the new move being made by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu towards reactivating bursary payment and scholarship awards, students in the state would soon begin to enjoy the scheme sustainably, unlike what was the case with the Students’ Loans Board at the federal level, where beneficiaries failed to fulfill their part of the deal, by repaying their loans.

Rivers State government is also unable to pay bursary to her 50, 000 students in tertiary institutions across the country.The Guardian findings revealed that the last time the state paid bursary to students was in 2014.It would be recalled that Rivers State students under the aegis of National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS) had planned a major street protest over the non-payment of bursary last September. That was later called off after the state government promised to address their grievances.

NURSS President, Patrick Ogbuehi, assumed the responsibility to explain The Guardian that the drop in the state’s revenue from the Federation Account was primarily responsible for government’s inability to pay bursary to students.Ogbuehi explained that the immediate past administration paid N10, 000 to each student as bursary, and promised to implement a 100 per cent increment, which means that if this incumbent government was to pay bursary, each of the approximately 51, 000 students would get N20, 000.

The NURSS leader stated that last year when the students wanted to take to the streets, the governor who wasn’t around at that time sent his representatives, who promised that once he was back he would address the issue. Upon his return, he said the governor directed the commissioner for education to verify the number of affected students to enable the state commence payment.

“The ministry has sent out letters to schools to send the names of bonafide Rivers State students to it so that it can compare it to what NURSS had submitted. No registrar in any of the schools in Rivers State has been able to do this. The state government has done its part; we have done ours, and so we expect the schools to do the same,” he said.

When contacted, the state Commissioner for Education, Tamunosisi Gogo-Jaja, simply said the state scholarship board is saddled with bursary and sundry matters.IF Rivers State owes its students bursary arrears of about four years, students in Cross River State are alleging that the government has not paid them bursary since 2002.Student leaders could not be reached, but some of the students, who spoke to The Guardian said they have not been paid bursary since Donald Duke left office as governor.

An undergraduate from Ogoja Local Council, John Ogar said, “bursary is strange to me because I have not heard of that kind of thing since I started school three years ago.“It would be good if government can re-introduce bursary because it will help us a lot. So many students come from poor homes and there are lots of demands from the schools on us. If there is anything like bursary government should re-introduce it,” he said.

A postgraduate student from Abi council who simply identified himself as John said, “the last time I got bursary from the state government was in 2002, and in 2008 from my local government.”“For now, the state is not paying bursary. What some of us are enjoying today is scholarship from politically exposed individuals. This has been running for many years for indigent students from the Central Senatorial district for instance,” he said

When contacted, the state Commissioner for Education, Godwin Etah, declined to comment on phone, and opted for an interview (Monday) tomorrow.IN Edo State, the last time bursary was paid to students was in 2008 when Professor Oserheimen Osunbor was governor, and it generated serious controversy and it was restricted to students within tertiary institutions in the state.
At the time, there were also allegations that the scheme was not properly coordinated, and many students in the state claimed they were left out just as those outside the state complained bitterly of marginalisation.The serious protests, which followed the controversial payment led to the then governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole cancelling the programme.
But the leadership of the National Association of Edo Students (NAES), yesterday, called for the restoration of bursary for students from the state as it lamented that “the situation is so pathetic, some of these students don’t even have money for their projects.
According to the National President of NAES, Paschal Arhaewoh, “The last bursary was paid to Edo students was in 2008, and when Comrade Adams Oshiomhole became governor, it was stopped. Two months ago, we paid a courtesy call on Governor Obaseki and we were received by the Commissioner for Youth, Sports and Social Development, who told us that the state government does not have enough resources for bursary. For now, it is only public-spirited individuals who assist indigent students. We want government to have a rethink.”

President, National Union of the Lagos State Students, (NULSS) Daniju Sultan, said they are not owed any arrears even though the payment usually comes late under Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.“So far, so good, the state government does not owe any student. The only challenge we have with the Ambode administration is that it pays late, and Lagos State is the only state that has consistently paid bursary. We are expecting that before the year runs out we will be paid that of this year …We do not have the figures of all those who have benefitted as many students can benefit without recourse to the students union,” he said.

When The Guardian quoted the number of students who benefitted in the 2016/2017 academic session as provided in the ministerial press briefing note of the Ministry of Education, which revealed that 2, 921 Lagos State University students; 305 Lagos State College of Health Technology students; 225 Nigerian Law School and Maritime Academy students, as well as 3, 839 students from other institutions benefitted, Sultan said the NULSS is not happy about the number of students who benefitted.

“This is because we have instances where students complained to us that they registered to be part of the bursary, but were not successful. To benefit from scholarship scheme, the student must meet the 3.5 CGPA benchmark, but we have those that met it, went through the exams and at the end of the day, they were still not shortlisted for the scholarship, while for bursary, there are those who proved beyond reasonable doubt that they are Lagosians, yet they were still not shortlisted.”

It would be recalled that the last payment made by the Lagos State government was after NULSS threatened in December 2017, to embark on a mass protest at the expiration of a seven-day ultimatum. The Special Adviser on Education to Lagos State Governor, Obafela Bank-Olemoh, who oversees bursary issues, said he was abroad and so cannot comment on the issue.

Despite allegation that Ogun State makes provision for bursary in its yearly budgets, there has been no disbursements in the last three years. The Guardian learnt that the last disbursement of N117, 271,000 to 14, 550 beneficiaries was made in March 2015, prior to the 2015 general elections.It was gathered that since the commencement of the second term of the current administration, no disbursement has been made.

President, National Association Of Ogun State Students (NAOSS), Lawal Aderewa, who confirmed this to The Guardian, yesterday, said they are not unaware that the money is always part of the yearly budget, but they have been making efforts to make them see reasons why students should be given their due. Efforts to get response from the government yielded no result. A text message was sent to the Commissioner for Information, Dayo Adeneye on Friday night, without reply.On Saturday morning, several calls were put across but Adeneye’s cellphone was switched off.


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