Over 3,000 undergraduates of Bayelsa State origin have benefited from the state Higher Education Students Loan Board scheme in the last one year to help those who could not afford school fees to complete their studies in various tertiary institutions.
The board was established by the immediate past governor of the State, Senator Seriake Dickson, to carter for education need of Bayelsa students in tertiary institutions.
The board also disclosed that it had spent about N400 million as loans to benefiting undergraduates.
The Executive Secretary of the Board, Dr. Michael Amaegberi, disclosed this when members of the Federated Correspondents’ Chapel of NUJ, Bayelsa State Council, visited his office in Yenagoa as part of independent assessment of educational facilities in the state.
He said the board was established by law to cater for indigent students who are pursuing higher education in public universities across the country.
According to the Executive Secretary, the loans amounts, which varies according to programmes, were interest free, with flexible repayment plans where undergraduate beneficiaries are allowed to begin repayment one year after their mandatory national youth service programme.
He said: “Effectively, we started giving out loans in 2020 and between that time and now the total number of students in public tertiary institutions across Nigeria, over 3000 students have cut across diploma, first degree, Masters and doctorate degree programmes.
“While the scheme is a novel one, there is no interest to be paid on the loans.
“Whenever the student is paying, it is the initial amount given to him/her and they are supposed to start paying back one year after their national youth service.
“We have given out almost N400 million in loans to students and the amount per student varies, but the only programmes that we try to keep them at the same level is Masters and doctorate degree programmes,” he said.
He pointed out that the Board is challenged by funding, adding that they are working towards seeking funding from the United Nations Education Fund, (UNEP), International Oil Companies, and relevant government agencies like the Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).