By Babajide Komolafe, Favour Nnabugwu, Frankllin Alli & Nkiruka Nnorom
DIRECTOR-General, Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Prof Longmas Wapmuk on Tuesday said that the federal government is owing students under the Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) N12 billion in allowance.
He disclosed this at the 2nd Annual seminar for Trade & Investment Correspondents and Business Editors organised by the Federal Ministry of Trade & Investment in Abuja. Wapmuk said that given this huge debt burden and the inadequacy of funding for the scheme, the agency would rather have the government cancel the N2,500 stipend approved per student instead of accumulating huge debt.
SIWES, he explained, was established in 1973 to solve the problem of lack of adequate practical skills preparatory for employment in industries by Nigerian graduates of tertiary institutions. He however lamented that the scheme which exposes and transits students from classroom theories to the practical world had not been funded as a result of increasing demand from all strata of the economy on the federal government funds.
Employment upon graduation
Wapmuk said that the whole idea of the scheme to marry practical with theory with a view to certifying them for employment upon graduation was being marred by funding.
“Left to us in the ITF, we prefer that we have a cashless SIWES, because students have been taking care of themselves already during the SIWES period and since the federal government is not in a position to give us the money required because of the demands from other sectors of the economy, we feel we should have a cashless SIWES so that ITF can pay more time to supervising the students instead of accumulating debt.
“There is no need to accumulate debt that we cannot pay because we are not meeting the demand. Most of staff have been beaten and molested over the SIWES debt,” he said.
The ITF boss explained that the agency was able to cope with the funding of the SIWES when practical experience was restricted to students of science and engineering but lost control when tertiary institutions maintained that all other courses should be allowed to under go the practical experience.
Wapmuk said staff of the agency had over time been assaulted over the SIWES debt while the increasing number of student also made it difficult for ITF staff to bear. “You can imagine a scheme that started with few hundreds now running into hundreds of thousands as students enrollment has increased. The allowance used to be N250.00 before it was increased to N2,500 in 2004 and given the huge size of students, it is therefore very difficult for our staff to monitor the huge number”
“The objectives of SIWES are very clear and good but the problem ITF has with the SIWES itself is funding. Some few years back before 2005, ITF was able to pay students their stipends but from 2006 upward, we had the problem of the budget. We had a situation whereby our requirement of SIWES for funds to pay students was approximately N2.2billion but the provision in the budget used to be in the region of N900million until last year,” he added.
The DG stated that the agency needed at least N2.2billion yearly to pay students adding that money eventually released to ITF often fall in the region of N900 million.