MOST undergraduates of tertiary institutions across Nigeria engage in the Students’ Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) to acquire more practical knowledge of their studies. The scheme is managed by the ITF and lasts for three to 12 months depending on institutions. Students are provided a N15,000 allowance upon successful conclusion of the training. However, many students who have participated in the training never received the stipend even after graduation.
Kuvia Mamza studied Microbiology between 2016 and 2020 at the Federal University of Technology, Minna.
She had participated in the SIWES training in 2019 and her Industrial Training at El-Rapha Hospitals and Diagnostics, Abuja.
She told The ICIR that neither she nor members of her class received the stipend upon completion of the training.
“They didn’t pay us. I haven’t seen the money till date. They didn’t even pay anybody in my class,” she said.
An alumnus of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) Chidiogo Ogamba graduated from the Department of Environmental Management in 2018.
She had her SIWES training in 2017. She told The ICIR that she had filled in the necessary details and submitted the forms required of her before proceeding with the programme.
According to Ogamba, nobody in her department received the stipend after concluding the programme.
“I didn’t get that payment. I know some people later started getting the payments in some other departments, but not all departments were paid. They didn’t pay us and there was no explanation,” she said.
Kennedy Uzoma had his SIWES training as a student of Imo State University in 2014. He told The ICIR that he did not receive the SIWES allowance, though almost all his classmates got the payment.
“I didn’t bother following up on it or asking why I wasn’t paid. The process would have been too stressful, so I let it go,” he said.
Obianuju Ezenwosu graduated from the Federal Polytechnic, Oko in Anambra State.
She undertook her one-year SIWES training in 2015, but yet to receive her stipend till date.
Students from Nigerian tertiary institutions and other stakeholders have condemned the continuous non-payment of allowances by the ITF over the years.
In 2017, the House of Representatives addressed the issue during a plenary session, but four years after, the problem has persisted.
Despite the large number of students who never get paid after participating in the training, some others have attested to receiving the allowance.
Divine Mgbenobi had spent the years between 2015- 2019 studying Architecture at Caritas University, Enugu State.
In 2018, she had gotten placement for her IT at El-Mansur Atelier, Abuja, which lasted for six months.
Mgbenobi told The ICIR that she received the allowance months after the conclusion of her training along with other members of her class.
“They paid us four months after the IT ended. They gave us N15,000. We weren’t even expecting it, but everybody in my class got the alert one early morning,” she said.
The ICIR contacted Assistant Director and Head of Training of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) in Abuja Phoebe Ochoche, over the non-payment of stipends.
Ochoche declined to speak on the issue, saying the ITF Abuja was not directly involved in payment of stipends.
“I’m not the right person to speak on this. Our headquarters is in Jos, they make payment. Our duty is to sign the logbooks here which we have been doing,” she said.
But a SIWES official, who requested anonymity for lack of authorisation to comment on the issue, told The ICIR that there were several reasons for non-payment of allowances. According to him, students and their institutions were primarily to blame for the non-payment of stipends.
“Most of the students are not qualified for the stipend because they are not doing what is right. Some of them do not meet the requirements for payment. Some do, but most of the errors are from their institutions who collate their account details.
“Some omit account details. When payment is being done, the payment will not get to the recipient because of the shortfall from the account information,” he said.
He also noted that some of the students provided family members’ account details, which made it more difficult to effect payment, and added that many did not work for the duration of time stipulated by the Scheme.
“Some of them give their parents’ account numbers. How do we pay the parents? Some of them give their sisters’ account numbers. None of this fund is meant for any other use than to pay them their stipend if they duly complete the Scheme as stipulated by the Act establishing the Scheme.
“Some of them do not submit the staff work, they do not even do the IT, that’s why some of them are carrying the course over. They are lazy. We battle with them every day. And by the law, you have to fulfil that six months IT to be entitled as a university undergraduate.
“As a student of a college of education, you must do that four months training. If you bring an empty log book, you are supposed to spend six months and you spend four months did you meet up with the requirements?” he asked.
He noted that while any student could participate in the training, not all departments were qualified for payment of stipends.
“There are lists of disciplines and courses approved for payment. Not all courses are approved. Even in the Sciences, there is a list of courses approved by the National Universities Commission for SIWES funding. Not all of them. Other students can go, but they cannot be paid,” he said.
He also urged undergraduates to contact their institutions and confirm details submitted by the institution in event of non-payment of allowance.
In 2020, Director-General of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Joseph Ari, described the payment of stipends as the greatest challenge of the SIWES Unit.
He noted that funding for the project by the Federal Government had continued to drop, despite the increasing number of students participating in the training each year.
“Last year, the budget for SIWES was N1.5 billion and what was paid into the coffer of ITF was N700 million. The earlier people understand the situation, the better, that is why some students would have graduated before their money are paid,” he said.
Ari disclosed that stakeholders would be engaged during the 2020 SIWES Biennial Conference to develop solutions to the challenges faced by the unit.