Kaduna State Scholarship and Loans Board has dedicated a huge sum of money to fund tertiary education of eligible applicants. How much have you set aside and how can scholarship be applied for, under the new arrangement?
First, I need to correct the perception that a lot of money has been set aside. Maybe what you meant to say is that we have about N3 billion that have been allocated, through budget provision, to the Kaduna State Scholarship and Loans Board, to take care of the various types of scholarships that we have. So, this is a budget provision that is subject to be accessed by eligible applicants. However, we also have a N2 billion fund, in partnership with FCMB, for Education Loan. Our counterpart fund of N1 billion has already been paid. So, this money is available to be accessed immediately.
Can you distinguish between a scholarship and a students’ loan and how can these two be accessed?
An Education Loan is a fund given to students or their sponsors, for them to be able to take care of their educational bills and pay later. While a scholarship is a grant that is given to students and they are not expected to pay back. We essentially have two types of scholarships in Kaduna state; we have the Merit-based scholarship and the Need-based scholarship. The Merit-based scholarship is strictly given to First Class students, after going through our internal vetting process. In September 2020, 42 students were awarded the Merit-based scholarship while in the January 2021, over 200 people applied and 32 people were shortlisted. And the 42 people are already in school, in countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Hungary. So, that’s about the Merit-based scholarship.
The Need-based scholarship is meant for the needy, the poor, to enable them finance their studies. While for Merit-based is just for the applicant to show evidence that he is an exceptional student, but an applicant has to demonstrate that he is needy, for him to be eligible for the Need-based scholarship.
One of the criteria that we use is assessing your annual and your parents’ annual turnover; the Annual Tax Certificate of your parents is what we use. There is difference between Tax Registration Certificate and Tax Clearance Certificate. The Tax Registration Certificate just gives you the details while the Tax Clearance Certificate gives you the details and your turnover in naira. So, what we are looking for is the Tax Clearance Certificate. So, when an applicant submits these documents, we will assess them. And if his or her parents are late, the Death Certificate will be required.
Now, the general conversation is that how do you expect people that are needy, mothers that are house wives, parents that are peasant farmers, to access Tax Certificates? But we are working in collaboration with Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service (KADIRS). They have offices in all the 23 local government areas. Anyone can walk into these offices and declare what he or she has earned. If you can convince the Tax Officer, he will assess you based on that.
But the challenge that we are having is that people don’t go and access their Tax Clearance Certificates until when there is a need for it. And with scholarship, there is a deadline of submission. You are supposed to have your Tax Clearance Certificate at the beginning of the year. You don’t just rush to get it only when you want to benefit from the state. So, if people know that they are needy and there is one critical document that they are supposed to get for themselves, or for their parents, they should do so in good time. This document is fundamental in giving out Need-based scholarship. We also do an assessment of BVN and bank balances and in the end, we are able to determine those who fall under the category of the needy.
Does the Scholarship and Loans Board sponsor undergraduates? Most of the list of successful applicants that you have released so far, is of Post Graduate and Doctoral Students.
Undergraduates fall in the category of Bursary; about N109,000 is given for bursary per individual and from 2019 till date we have given over 6,800 students N109, 000 each. People say that that amount is small but you have to look at it vis-à-vis the number of students. Our argument has always been, how many of these students have applied? If you have a need for government intervention, you have to apply for it.
We have done a lot of advocacy, both on radio and by visitations; I have gone to several universities. In fact, recently we did a local government advocacy, where we visited the local government and talked with the traditional rulers about this funding. And we do go with our computers and gadgets, so as we finish talking about it, people can register immediately. So, these are some of these that we have done. But the number that will benefit is directly proportional to the number that apply. Now, we have now modified it, we are going to rest bursary. So, all those that have applied for bursary, we are going to migrate their data, to scholarship; what we call local scholarship, the Need-based local scholarship.
One of the fundamental problems of bursary payment that students have been facing is BVN. Some have gone through the process and have been vetted and we are ready to pay them. But they need to prove that they are the actual people that we are paying so that we don’t pay a wrong person. So, we cross check the data given to us and the BVN that is with the bank. In our database, over 1,400 students have been cleared but their BVN data is not matching. So, we asked them to go to the bank to rectify it. So, there is a modification, we are resting bursary and migrating all those that applied for it, to Need-based scholarship. And this time around, there is no need for BVN because we are not going to pay these fees to students but directly to the schools. The schools are known, we don’t need a BVN to confirm the students. So, because of this change, we are going to open a portal and it’s going to take about two weeks for the migration to be completed and then we move forward.
Last Tuesday, students of Kaduna State University (KASU) demonstrated over the hike in tuition fees, complaining that most of their parents cannot afford it. You said that you have visited several universities to sensitise students about how the Scholarship and Loans Board can fund education. Did you meet with KASU students in your advocacy?
Immediately this issue of increase in tuition fees in Kaduna state-owned tertiary institutions came up, I contacted the management of KASU, informing them of the need to have a meeting and requested that they invite the students’ leadership. The reason was that we needed to reach out to them to explain and clarify the issues because there is a lot of misconception. We tried to make them understand that the same government that wants to hike tuition fees, has also made adequate provision for those that are needy. The governor has given us express directive that we should go and capture the students that are needy.
So, I told them that our duty as Scholarship and Loans Board, with the support of the vice chancellor and the students’ body, is to rally round the students so that we can segment them into three. We have students whose parents are economically capable of paying their fees. The government does not want to subsidise for the education of those people; they should go and pay the actual fees. We have students that are from middle class families, which means from what their parents are earning, they can pay the fees but they may not be able pay at once. That is why the N2 billion loan is available for this category of students and they can access it within few days. There is the third batch; these are people that are poor and they risk dropping out from school. These are the students that we are looking for to apply for the Need-based scholarship.
So, pre-emptively, I reached out to KASU. At the end of the day, I had just finished meeting with the president of National Association of Kaduna State Students (NAKAS), so he was at the premises at that time when the Vice President of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), current and former President of KASU Students’ Union stormed our office unannounced. They stampeded us. After calming the situation, while the Vice President of NANS was engaging us, some so called students’ leaders that were in the group, including one that I identified as the immediate past president of KASU Students’ Union, told me outrightly that I should not step into KASU for any advocacy. They warned me that the students are not interested in what I was going to say. That the students are not interested in the loan, they are also not interested in the scholarship. All they want is that there should be no hike in tuition fees. A female member of their team was upset that she was not paid bursary but we evidently showed her that she submitted certificates with her state of origin altered.
I educated the student threatening me that the intended meeting with the vice chancellor is a meeting between two heads of government institutions and that he is not in a position to stop me from entering KASU. Few hours later, they stormed the entire social media with a lot of campaign of calumny and libelous allegations against me. Of course, I went to KASU afterwards to attend other events. But the vice chancellor has not reached out with a date to meet with the students. I’m sure if the situation normalizes, he will invite me for that meeting.
So, I think that the students are jumping the gun by going on protest. You cannot try to halt the system without listening to what the government has to offer. Government officials like me have reached out but the students are being misdirected by their leaders who just want cheap popularity. I have spoken to the NAKAS president and I told him that they have a choice between engaging government to see how they can reach some accommodation. If his concern is the situation of the poor, the government is saying that it has made provision for them. We are supposed to work together, mobilise the critical mass and see how we can put them into the safety net. But if you are pursuing a populist agenda, it’s going to be short lived and the outcome is not going to be palatable. We are also reaching out to the other state-owned institutions.
Apart from KASU, what has been the reception of the students in other state-owned tertiary institutions?
The official position on the increase of tuition fees was taken about two months ago. My engagement with KASU was before this decision was finally taken. We have written letters to other schools so that we can also engage them.