Education is the bed rock for the advancement of a society. The relevance of education cannot be over emphasized. It is said that a society cannot grow beyond its educational capacity. Access to quality education in Nigeria over the years, has been an arduous task for parents. The reason for this is not far fetched as the tuition and upkeep of their wards gulp huge amount of money.
The government upon realization of this deficiency established the Bursary and Scholarship Board to assist students in their educational pursuit by ameliorating the perceived deficiency in terms of funds. The role of this board has been crucial to the enhancement of quality education.
A cursory look at the current position of this board in Delta state amidst recession has called for a serious concern and attention. In time past, especially periods between 2009 to 2011, when Monseigneur Buchi Aninye held sway as chairman of the board, the board was very proactive in its statutory responsibility.
Delta state as it were, was the centre stage for educational empowerment and development across Nigeria during the tenures of James Ibori and Emmanuel Uduaghan. These Governors used the Delta state Bursary and Scholarship board to empower indigent students across the state. The board in a bid to be more proactive and serve Deltans through educational empowerment, during the tenure of Uduaghan, increased amount of the Student Special Assistance Scheme from N10,000 to N20,000 per session in 2009. This scheme was made available to all students of Delta origin across tertiary institutions in the country. That same year, the board established and introduced some other schemes in order to serve Deltans better. The schemes introduced include; Law School Students, Scheme for Pilot, Tertiary Institution Scholarship Scheme, Deceased Civil Servants Children Assistance Scheme, First Class Graduate Overseas Scholarship Scheme and The Physically Challenged Individuals Scholarship Scheme. These schemes under the Uduaghan’s administration, positioned Delta state as the leading state in Educational empowerment.
For the Students Special Assistance Scheme, it was open to all students of Delta origin across Tertiary institutions in Nigeria. An amount was given to students every session. The government sets aside N20,000 for each student per session. The Tertiary Institution Scholarship Scheme was aimed at rewarding excellence as only undergraduate students in Nigerian Universities with a CGPA of 3.5 and above per session were eligible and N100,000 was pegged per student.
There was also the Postgraduate scholarship under this scheme which was open to all Masters and Ph.D students with N200,000 and N300,000 paid to their accounts every session respectively. This scheme since 2011 has been non-existent. The First class Graduate Overseas Scholarship Scheme was geared towards the academic development of the best brains to attain enviable heights by boosting access to quality Post-Graduate education to the Ph.D level outside the shores of Nigeria. This scheme made Deltans to take their educational pursuit seriously. This made Delta State students had the highest number of first class graduates in Nigeria as at the time the scheme was introduced. The amount pegged for this scheme was N5, 000,000. However, since 2012, the first class graduates who were under this scheme have been stranded overseas with no amount of money disbursed to them subsequently by the board.
This has made many of them drop their education for other ventures. This goes to show the ineptitude of this board under the auspices of Samuel Igumbor. For about four years now, the board has not made public by way of advertisement for students within this category to subscribe to the scheme. The reason for this Deltans are not aware! But huge allocation is always allotted to them in the annual appropriation bill. Where has this money been going to?
Other schemes going by their nomenclature, one knows what they were meant for.
The question that comes to mind is; are Deltans aware of these schemes made available by the board? Does the board still give out grants for these schemes? Has there been any advertisement whatsoever for students to subscribe? Is there a sustenance of these schemes? Have they been scraped? Should we just allow these schemes that prides Deltans above others to just go down the drain? Is the chairman aware that the board has stopped processing money for these schemes?
There has been a reconstitution of the board by the incumbent Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa. The board as we gathered was constituted last year with Okowa’s inlaw one Mr. Samuel Igumbor as the chairman. It is lugubrious to borrow Obayangbon’s favourite word, that the chairman hasn’t taken conscious efforts to revive these schemes which has not be in operation for the past three years save for the Students Special Assistance Scheme which used to be the mainstay of Delta students has not been accessed for some time only recently did the board advertise for it.
Some enlightened individuals have come to the conclusion that the board headed by Igumbor lacks the ability to make the board serve its statutory obligation of ensuring educational empowerment. The perceived ineptitude of the members of the board has made some individuals lose faith in the Okowa administration especially in this time of recession.
After all, it is said that the slogan of this administration is; “Prosperity for ALL Deltans” but has since turned to Destitute.
In a bid to sample students opinion on the subject matter, Delta Decides crew sampled the opinion of Delta students across four tertiary institutions in the country. The institutions visited are; the University of Benin, Delta state University Abraka, Delta state Polytechnic Otefe-Oghara and the College of Education Agbor. We also made contacts with some first class graduate under the first class graduates scholarship scheme across Ukraine and Russia. A student in Ukraine who would not want his name on print noted that the state government has not been fair to them as the money promised them through out their educational pursuit has not be given them and this has made them stranded that they have to do menial jobs to survive. In his words, ” the government has abandoned us in Ukraine. We struggle to survive. If they couldn’t sustain the scheme, they shouldn’t have introduced it in the first instance.”
John Oghenekevwe Mukoro of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Benin, noted that he is on a GPA of 4.1 and he had thought that he would be able to access the scholarship scheme to relieve the burden of tuition and other expensive on his parents. He said that the scheme is no longer accessible as it was in the past and this has made him work as a part-time worker in one of the hotels in Benin. A student of DELSU who wouldn’t want her name on print was of the opinion that the process of registering for the ongoing Student Special Assistance Scheme has been stressful and this has discouraged many students from registering. At the Delta state Polytechnic Otefe-Oghara, Stella Maris Esemuje said that she hasn’t felt any impact of the board and was surprised such a board existed to assist students in the tertiary institution. “Since I was admitted here in the 2014/2015 academic session, I haven’t felt any impact of the bursary and scholarship board in terms of educational empowerment”, she noted. She therefore appealed to the board to introduce a scholarship scheme for Polytechnic students as the tertiary institution scholarship scheme was targeted at the University students. The students of the College of Education Agbor were not different as they criticized the board for it’s slowness in empowering the students.
Efforts to get across to the Chairman and Secretary of the board yielded no result as at the time of writing this report.
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