Ali Suleiman, a 300-level Agricultural Science Student of Kaduna State University (KASU) was excited when he was selected for the state government’s scholarship for the 2021 session.
The 21-year-old said he was selected at a point when he could not afford to stay in school due to his inability to pay fees.
Suleiman noted how life became hard for him when the state government increased tuition fees.
He said as a result of struggling for a better life, he took up menial jobs of painting houses and installing wallpapers to enable him to pay his fees and feed because his parents couldn’t afford to pay his fees.
So, as his earnings weren’t enough, he decided to apply for the state government’s scholarship for the 2019-2020 session. Unfortunately, he was not selected.
He didn’t give up as he reapplied in 2021 through the online registration portal and was lucky.
He said: “It was not easy because I was lucky to have acquired these skills even before I started school, and right now I use the money earned to reduce the burden on my parents.”
Ali, whose GPA is 3.78, said with the scholarship, his parents could now focus on his siblings’ education as his tuition fee is fully covered till graduation by the state government.
He recalled that they pay N38,000 as tuition fees before the state government increased their fee to over N100,000.
For Joevita Joseph Nok, a 200-level Building Department student of the same university who was also selected for the merit-based scholarship, she said she applied for the scholarship after the tuition fee was increased.
While noting that the increase in tuition fees by the state government worried her parents, she said, “I immediately applied in 2021 for the scholarship, as it will help me to complete my education without financial difficulties.”
Another 300-level Economic student, who also got the merit-based scholarship, Maryam Muhammed, said it will help her education significantly with less financial burden on her parents.
On his part, a parent, Mr Joseph Tanko Nok, said two of his children are currently studying at KASU. He said he was very worried when the tuition fee was increased by the government.
“We are poor people and I have two children in the school. I am always thinking of how to pay their tuition fees, but when my daughter got the scholarship, it brought relief for me,” he said.
He, therefore, pleaded with the state government to sustain the scholarship programme because it will give the children of poor parents a better future.
Meanwhile, Ali, Joevita and Maryam are not the only happy students as 1,248 other students’ tuition fees were paid by the state government making it a total of 1,251, through the need-based and merit-based scholarship scheme.
While some students are happy to have been selected, there are others who claim that they received congratulatory message of being selected but didn’t get the scholarship.
Mohammad Ibrahim, a 400-level student of the University of Maiduguri (Unimaid) who was seen at the State Scholarship Board, where he went to lay a complaint, lamented that he applied for the scholarship in 2019 and got an email informing him that he was selected.
“I was told I got the scholarship and an email was sent to me since 2019 but now they are telling me to reapply because the portal was deleted,” he said.
He wondered why he was told to reapply after he had already been selected.
The scholarship, which is in three categories of need-based, merit-based and loan-based scholarships, was introduced by the state government to cater for the less privileged and those doing well academically.
The need-based is for students whose parents couldn’t afford the tuition fees; the merit-based is for students that are doing excellently well in their academics irrespective of their parents’ financial status; while the third category is the loan given to students who didn’t qualify for need-based scholarship.
It was gathered that the state government made available the sum of N524,128,000 for both the need-based and merit-based scholarship grants.
Daily Trust gathered that N219 million was paid for the 1,251 students currently studying in the three state-owned tertiary institutions – Kaduna State University (KASU), Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic Zaria and College of Education Gidan Waya.
Explaining the criteria in the selection of beneficiaries, the Executive Secretary, Kaduna State Scholarship and Loan Board, Hassan Rilwan, said they wrote to the schools requesting for the details of students that applied for the need-based and merit-based scholarships.
“They gave us the list and we asked them to give us the tuition fees of all the merit students till graduation. So they give us the names, registration numbers and number of years remaining and the amount expected to be paid. So we computed the amounts and gave it to them,” he said.
He said on the need-based scholarship, “what we did was we relied on the state social register; it’s a register of the poor people and we have over two million people in that register and these two million people comprise of the entire family – father, mother and children.”
“Out of these two million, about 33,000 of them are students in tertiary institutions. So what we did was we now divided those in tertiary institutions. We removed those going to KASU we gave them to KASU and those going to Nuhu Bamalli we gave them to Nuhu Bamalli.
“So when we give it to you, you will check your system and give us their school fees and their year of graduation. That is how we got the students,” he added.
Rilwan noted that the total amount made available was N524,128,000 but the money spent so far on the three state-owned institutions is N219 million to cater for 1,251 students until their graduation. “These are all residents of Kaduna State,” he noted.
The executive secretary, however, denied the allegations that some of the beneficiaries were children of the rich, saying the scholarship is not meant for the children of the poor alone.
“That is why we have the merit and need base scholarships. The children of the poor will also be in the merit because the fact that they came from poor families doesn’t mean they cannot be excellent students,” he said.
He further said they have the children of the poor that are on the merit list but that there are no children of the rich in the need-base.
“When you see the children of the rich in the merit-based system, they got there because they are excellent students and we are rewarding that excellence and there is nothing wrong with that,” he said.
Rilwanu also disclosed that the reason the board made payment directly to the school managements was because they discovered some students were spending the money for other personal uses, which was not the purpose of the scholarship.
”We are given this money for a purpose; so that the students can pay their school fees and reduce their parents’ burden. But we saw a situation whereby we paid N109,000 to a student and the parents still suffer to pay the school fees because the child didn’t tell the parent that we have paid.
“What we achieved in doing was giving the child money to buy a new phone. The objective of the scholarship is not to buy phone. That is why we pay directly to the school and then tell the whole world that we paid the school fees,” he said.
On the claims of those who got confirmation emails but denied the sponsorship, Rilwan said they gave bursary to over 6,000 students between April 2019 and February 2021 and in March 2021, they stopped the payment of bursary because they noticed that it had a problem.
“The problem is that we are giving money to people irrespective of their economic status.
“Once you apply and you are from Kaduna State, you will get it. We are not checking whether you are rich or poor, we just pay.
“And we said no, that bursary is for the needy and we should be able to make sure that only the needy get it.”
He further said they needed to collect from the students their parents’ tax certificates so that they could evaluate their financial status and that was why they had to stop the portal and migrate all those that have not benefited to the need-based scholarship.
Rilwan said the students should know that the fact that they didn’t get the scholarship didn’t mean that somebody is cheating them or stealing their money.
“They need to understand that the number of students in Kaduna State is so much. It’s step by step, it will get to your turn and if you graduated before it got to your turn, it will get to your younger ones,” he said.
Speaking on the loan for students, he said it is meant for students who cannot afford to pay their tuition fees and they didn’t qualify for the need-based or merit-based scholarship.
“These are the people that will go for the loan and we have a N2 billion loan in the state and out of it we have disbursed over N800 million to 509 beneficiaries.
“So people can apply for this loan online so that they can get their tuition fees and so far 509 people have accessed it,” he said.
While noting that the students will be paying gradually for a maximum of five years, he said the board is partnering with a bank that makes sure all the necessary documentation is done to ensure that the beneficiaries pay the loan.
The Kaduna State University (KASU) Acting Vice Chancellor, Professor Abdullahi Ashafa, told Daily Trust that about 800 students have benefited from the scholarship and loan schemes in the institution.
“We have 800 beneficiaries and looking at the percentage of those in need-based and merit-based, those seeking loans are very negligible,” he said.
According to him, it is the first time a state government paid the whole tuition upfront for its students in tertiary institutions in the state.