Carol Jenkins

A group of African students whose college tuitions are being paid by the U.S. government yesterday received a boost of additional funds to continue their educations – and an executive from the private contractor coordinating the program just happens to be the wife of a senior Obama administration official, WND has learned.

According to a document uncovered by officials with T-RAM, the U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor blog, during a routine search of a federal contracting database, the U.S. Agency for International Development under the current initiative has already spent nearly $2.1 million to send 16 students from the southeast African nation of Malawi to colleges in their homeland as well as in the U.S. and Kenya.

Because the final “task order” of the contract is set to expire in May – and since USAID says it is not finished fully training the Malawian students – the agency has granted a $650,000 “bridge” contract to the Vermont-based organization World Learning.

The single-source, one-year award will enable the students to complete their degree programs, prevent damage to the reputation of the U.S. and will help USAID to avoid tens of thousands of dollars in expenses stemming from additional airfare and other logistical costs, USAID says.

World Learning’s senior vice president for international development and exchange programs is Carol Jenkins. The group on its website touts that under Jenkins’ leadership, “the unit has seen revenue increase by 14 percent with continued anticipated growth.”

Jenkins is the wife of Robert Jenkins, director of the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives within the agency’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.

A USAID document dated April 4 and titled “Action Memorandum for the Contracting Officer” points out that the 16 current participants in the initiative are “engaging in long-term degree programs that will fill critical needs in both the education and health sectors.”

The single-source contract is justified, USAID asserts, because the cost of transporting the students and their belonging back to Malawi – and back again to the U.S. once it issues a separate solicitation and a subsequent contract order – would compound an already heavy investment into the program.

“The U.S. government pays the tuition and room and board costs for the graduate program in Public and Maternal and Child Health MPH (Masters in Public Health) and the tuition at the Kenyan and Malawian Institutions,” the document says. “In the U.S., the tuition is approximately $20,930 plus $4,830 for room and board. The U.S. government pays participants $600 a month as a maintenance allowance and pays the participants health insurance of $85 a month.”

The U.S. institution of higher learning to which the document refers is Lakeland College in Sheboygan, Wis., which according to its website has been working with USAID since 1999 to offer free teaching programs and degrees to Malawian students.

“For Kenyan [college] participants, the U.S. government pays the graduate program tuition of $3,261 per semester and room and board of approximately $1,575 per semester,” the document continues. “Participants also receive a stipend of approximately $441 per month as a maintenance allowance and $525 for health insurance. In Malawi, the U.S. government pays the tuition of $1,675 per term plus an additional $945 for room and board. Participants also receive a maintenance allowance of $300 per month.”

Separately, USAID last year sought to hire a privately contracted education adviser to deploy to Malawi. USAID created that position, which comes with an $85,000- $110,000 annual salary range, to help the government of Malawi address a number of chronic problems facing its public education system.

“These [problems] include over-crowded schools, a shortage of trained teachers, high drop-out and repetition rates and generally low levels of learning,” USAID said in that solicitation. “The Ministry of Education also has limited institutional capacity to develop and manage comprehensive education policies and plans to improve sector performance.”

It’s unclear whether USAID filled that position. A database search did not turn up any results for a related contract award.

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