The Rivers government has informed parents and guardians of students currently benefiting from the state government funded scholarship program in various universities across the world, that resources are no longer available to continue with the sponsorship abroad. As a result, the Rivers government will no longer pay the tuition and allowances of the scholars and has consequently advised all of them to return home.
In a February 6th, 2016, letter obtained exclusively by The ScoopNG, the executive director/CEO of the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA), Lawrence Pepple, said that the only exceptions to the directive are those students in their final year ending 2016.
“All others will need to return to Nigeria to continue their studies; the government will continue to fully sponsor them. This way all the students will still achieve the desired objective of successful graduation in your chosen field of study,” the letter read.
The Overseas scholarship program which is administered by the RSSDA has been running since the 2008/2009 academic session and had a target of sending 300 students overseas annually. The state government foots the entire bill of the scholars including the airfare, tuition (school fees, laboratory, books), accommodation, feeding and monthly upkeep. However a shortage of funds in the last three years saw a situation where the students were abandoned and left to fend for themselves as the former Gov. Rotimi Amaechi led administration owed them for several months at a time.
When Gov. Nyesom Wike was sworn in last May, he vowed that despite the shortage of funds, he will ensure that those already abroad get to successfully complete their studies even though new scholarships won’t be awarded. The governor has however failed to keep to his word, as he now says continual funding for the Overseas Scholarship Program is ”no longer tenable.”
In the letter, Lawrence Pepple disclosed that returning students will be offered admission in the state owned University of Science and Technology or the FG owned University of Port Harcourt, unless “your course of study is not available in either of these institutions, then admission will be sought in any government owned institution in Nigeria that offers your course.”
The students will however be transferred to the same level in Nigeria as they currently are abroad. At the moment, there are students on RSSDA scholarships in Canada, the UK, Ireland, India, Singapore and Malaysia.
The RSSDA CEO apologised over the fact that allowances and entitlements of the students have not been paid for several months. He stated that fixing that situation is “paramount on our agenda.”
“Unfortunate as the situation is, we thank God for the opportunity to still continue and complete your studies and the magnanimity of His Excellency, the Executive Governor for his vision to find a positive way out of the tight financial situation,” he said.