One would have thought that being one of the grant bodies that has its origins from Nigeria, most of the lecturers would be encouraged to pursue their higher degrees in the country so that the tertiary institutions in the country would benefit in another way from the fund, however, this is not the case.
“It is easier to do your Ph.D. outside (the country) there than here”, Professor Adedeji of the University of Ilorin said.
“There are no courses that you cannot get in Nigeria, mention the course, we have it but we do not usually have one or two things to back it up, that is the major problem. I cannot see any course that you cannot do in Nigeria but there are some problems, which we have. The top of it is that we do not have enough equipment, the equipment limited to some courses and does not support a lot of research work, so according to the objectives and the result the person wishes to achieve, he will have no choice but to do it somewhere else.”
However, his colleague, Professor Musa Toyin Yakubu, who is the Director, Central Research Laboratories, differs, saying that some courses are not available in Nigeria adding that the reason why most of the courses are not available is due the unavailability of equipment to go with it.
“If we have the equipment, we can always have the ball rolling instead of going outside to study and spending so much. If the government can equip the universities the more in terms of state of the art equipment, of course, why do they have to go out, once we can get it done here? Once what you are looking is within your trouser, why will you look for it elsewhere?”
The Federal University, Lafia ASUU Chairman was brute in his opinion about scholars going outside the country to study, “TETfund’s objective is to give the people quality education. This is not to say we do not have this in the country but some of the equipment specifically designed for some courses, particularly designed that one need for research is not here in the country.”
He, however, stated that it is also the responsibility of TETFund to provide this equipment for the institutions, “maybe, they can consider that instead of sending people abroad, they will invest the money in an institution per time and get the needed equipment.”
Abdullahi also added another dimension as to why academic scholars seek admission for their higher degrees outside the country as he explained that the academic calendar of tertiary institutions in Nigeria is not fixed and it takes longer for one to finish his Masters or Ph.D. in Nigeria than one would do in other countries. He said he was a victim of the irregular academic calendar during his Ph.D. programme in a Nigerian university.
“There is the fear on the part of members that if you enter for studies here in Nigeria, it will take you three time the number of years you will spend abroad. The calendar over there is fixed, the day you enter; you know when you are graduating.
“My Ph.D. took me eight years in a Nigerian university, that period alone is enough to train three to four persons abroad. Although I trained myself, it was self-sponsored but if I had had the money in bulk, it was enough to go to Malaysia and come back after three years. These are the special considerations and preferences of colleagues seeking admission abroad.
“Colleagues will prefer to go there, spend 12 months for Masters and return or spend two to three years for Ph.D. and return instead of staying here, being on the road now and then and at the end of the day, not getting what you expect or not completing when you calculate.”
Dr. Lazarus Luka Maigoro of the University of Jos on his part does not think it is a big deal for lecturers to want to go outside the country to study, saying the university system is supposed to be a universal affair that should be opened to new ideas and innovation.
“The university system is a universal affair, if you restrict everything to your own country, you will only be localising the university system in the country. The reason why I think TETFund allows the academic staff to go outside the country for higher studies may be that they do not want to restrict knowledge to what we know in the country alone. We need to go outside to learn from others.”
He also explained that not all courses for higher degrees are offered in the country, “It is not every course that is taught in Nigeria. There are also courses that we do not have the necessary manpower to mount Ph.D. programmes. Some countries have enough resources, enough personnel to mount such a programme, so why don’t we go to these countries and learn from them.
“Another thing is that for most of these Ph.D. programmes, we do not even have the equipment and that is the reason why we need to go out. While there are some courses taught here in Nigeria that you can do your Ph.D. here, you, however, need to learn to gain knowledge from other people outside the country.”
Is Tetfund fortifying foreign universities?
While some scholars justify the reason why Tetfund is sponsoring scholars to study abroad, other scholars have argued that the fund has succeeded in carting away taxpayers’ money to fortify and strengthen universities abroad.
A lecturer in the University of Jos, who prefers to speak anonymously, said that Tetfund is enriching universities outside the country at the detriment of the universities in Nigeria, according to her, if the money used for academic staff training is committed to one university each year, the country’s universities would have been well equipped to international standard.
“How can universities in Nigeria grow when the major source of funding prefers to give it to some other universities outside? If money committed for foreign training for academic staff is dedicated to one university each year, we would have state of the art research facilities in Nigeria universities the foreign researchers would come to visit. But no, Tetfund prefers to give it to foreign universities for training rather than spend it on Nigeria.”
The lecturer also said that it might not be farfetched if academic scholars are insisting to go and study abroad for some staff to enrich themselves.
Defence by Beneficiaries
A beneficiary of TETFund Staff Development and Training, Samuel Medayese told The Nation that sponsorship of staff to foreign universities has increased the capacity of the academic staff and have given them more international exposure especially to those who would not have to be financially capable of obtaining such quality education.
According to him, “it is not out of place by Tetfund to give scholarship to those wanting to study abroad. Facilities are better, standards are much trusted and delays are not experienced by a foreign institution. The major importance is not just to obtain a certificate, but to increase exposure and give Nigerian scholars the required international exposure and the latitude to be able to compete in the international scenes.”
Medayese further disclosed that recently, more scholars have used the fund for foreign training than funds meant for local training adding that TETFund seems to prefer foreign training because it enhances staff capacity compared to local training which is encumbered with series of challenges and delays.
Violation of guidelines?
Earlier in 2019, the news broke of how the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related OffencesCommission (ICPC) recovered N7.5 million unused grant from 11 lecturers of the Kaduna State Polytechnic.
It was gathered that the money was part of the TETFund grant released to the school between 2010 and 2017 for staff capacity development through local and international training.
The ICPC, through its Northwest zonal office which coordinated the investigation on the utilisation of tetfUND grants in the institution, found that the 11 lecturers failed to attend the training scheduled to hold in Nigeria, USA, Greece, and the United Arab Emirates despite having received monies.
Some of the lecturers collected as much as N1.39 million while others collected between N149,000 and N1.337 million under the Academic Staff Training and Development Project.
The former Executive Secretary of TETFund, Dr. Abdullahi Baffa, while in office had said that the guidelines for scholarships were intended to build the capacity of scholars in universities and create opportunities for them to pursue higher degrees at home and abroad were continually being violated.
According to him, most of the beneficiary scholars who were given money to pursue their higher study refuse to go and spend their money on something else also said that some institutions do not give the scholars the total money that was approved for them, adding that some make illegal deductions from the grants to the scholars.
Baffa claimed that the agency discovered that some scholars given funds to study in Europe or the United States in some cases ended up going to some African countries, while some scholars give the authorisation to study for their Ph.D. registered for Masters Degree.
However, not all universities experience this type of defaulters. The Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Professor Abdullahi Bala, who confirmed that the institution also benefits from the Academic Staff Development and Training from TETFund declared that it is impossible and difficult for anyone to just come by and misuse any grant given to them.
Strict disbursement process
Bala said that the institution has stringent processes for the disbursement of funds to staff for their academic training both abroad and in the country.
“From the academic staff development and training component of TETFund, the university has substantially benefited quite as a large number of our staff have been trained and some are still undergoing training at the Ph.D. level. That had improved and enhanced the capacity of the university in terms of academic staff resources.
“We have not witnessed any case of defaulters in the institution because the university does not just give people money just like that. We have laid down criteria, if you are going for staff development or training, we will be giving the beneficiary the money in trenches based on the progress report we get. The progress report will not only be from the student but also from the supervisor n the institution he is attending, so it is only based on that that we give out money.
“So we release the money in tranches, for those going on the conference, we do not just release the money, you have to give us documentation, proper documentation as per the papers to be presented and other things. When you are going, you will be given some money and when you return, after putting in your report, you will then be given the balance. It is very difficult in FUT Minna for an individual to just collect money and will not use the money, virtually impossible because we do not give all of the money to the staff, we insist that we see records of payments and commitment by the student before we give subsequent payments.
This is in line with the procedure of giving out funds for Academic staff development and training by TETFund. The disbursement process is authorized to be in two batches as 85 per cent is released first while 15 per cent will be released later.
For the sponsorship, N1.5 million or above is approved for Ph.D. courses abroad while N1.050 million is the amount approved for the programs in Nigerian universities for Ph.D.; all foreign programmes enjoy cover tuition fees, living expenses, health insurance, transportation amongst others.
Also in University of Jos, the ASUU Chairman said that there have not been any defaulters among the beneficiaries of the Academic staff development and training, he also attributed this to the stringent process of getting a recommendation adding that for the grant to attend conferences and training, it is always done by hierarchy and whoever has benefitted in the previous years will have to wait until the circle gets back to him/her.
“I have not heard of any defaulters here at the University of Jos. For us here, the system is so strict and regimented that it takes a long process for one to be recommended for the scholarships. The recommendations usually come from the Faculty as each faculty has allocations given to it.
“The deans of these faculties recommend the scholar to the central committee before the scholar is finally awarded the scholarship, but not after the due screening. The procedure is so strict that I do not know how institutions that have had defaulters have done it but here, the system will not even allow you to default.
“For conferences, you cannot apply straight from your office; it has to go through your Head of Department. If you are not qualified, you will not be given the grant. There are parameters used and these are followed to the book. For one, these who have been on the ground will be considered before the new applicants; also, there are some topics or courses which are also given priority. In addition, for conference attendance, it is always being given first to those who have not benefited before. I can tell you that it is a very open process.”
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