Students in 17 countries benefit from 10 percent stipend increase |02 March 2023
By Laura Pillay
Students on government scholarships from some seventeen countries, including those at the University of Seychelles (Unisey) have since January been benefitting from a 10 percent increase in their stipend.
The increase was officially announced by Minister for Finance, National Planning & Trade Naadir Hassan during the 2023 budget speech.
At present, around 300 of the 550 students studying under government of Seychelles scholarships are benefitting from the increases.
The monthly stipend is paid out to students to cover accommodation, food, and transportation, among other miscellaneous expenses while pursuing their university training. It is paid quarterly, and covers the entire duration of their approved training course, although the specific amount varies for different countries depending on the cost of living in the specific location.
According to Comptroller General at the finance ministry, Astrid Tamatave, government is constantly reviewing the stipend to ensure that it is sufficient for the students to be able to meet their expenses while studying, and that they are not faced with a financial burden when studying either overseas or locally.
The last overall increase was in 2019, where there was a 10 percent increase across all countries, known as approved study venues. This was following a 2006 revision for students in the UK, and 2017 revision for those undertaking studies in Tanzania.
Ms Tamatave noted that with the Covid pandemic in 2020 and most recently the Russia-Ukraine war, the average cost of living has increased by around 10 percent across the globe, government concluded from an exercise analysing all countries where students are undertaking their studies.
The cost of living analysis exercise took into account the average student’s expenditure whereby 46 percent is for accommodation, 24 percent for food and basic necessities, 4 percent for transportation, and 26 percent for other expenses such as internet, and leisure activities.
Finance Analyst Laura Ah-Shung further explained that the ministry engaged in intensive research seeking information from different sources to come to a conclusion as to how much a student needs to live comfortably within different study venues, and to derive the average cost of living in each country.
“In seventeen countries, the difference in percentage is negative, which indicates the stipend is below the average cost of living, and is therefore not sufficient to sustain students. It is based on this information that we recommended the increase for these seventeen countries,” Ms Ah-Shung noted.
Although the stipend for Slovakia and Czech Republic is just above the average cost of living, government decided to include them among the seventeen countries.
As such, the countries included in the 10 percent increase are; The Netherlands, Australia, Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Ireland, Malta, Mauritius, New Zealand, Reunion, Seychelles, Slovakia, South Africa and the USA.
The increase is expected to amount to R2.5 million in 2023, and is financed from the Ministry of Education’s budget. A sum of R223.2 million has been allocated for scholarship administration, R205 million of which is allocated specifically for university studies. A total of R57.8 million applies to students at the University of Seychelles (UniSey).
Students will have noticed the difference with the disbursement of the first quarterly stipend for 2023 which was paid out in February, to cover March and April as well. Students received a back payment for the month of January, head of scholarship administration at the Ministry of Education, Nadia Lauricourt, added.
Asides from the stipend, students are also given a book and clothing allowance, while government covers VISA expenses, travel expenses for students who are departing and returning from their studies, Visa-related expenses and medical insurance.
Principal secretary for Education Senior Development John Lesperance noted that the ministry will be initiating short inductions with all students who are proceeding to study overseas, including budget management skills.
It is essential that students prioritise their expenditure while overseas it was emphasised.