Underinvestment in the education sector and the limited and inadequate resources available to young people in Nigeria have been identified as a threat to the realisation of youths in the country.
This submission was made by the Non-Executive Director of Ecobank Nigeria, Mrs Titilayo Olujobi during the onboarding session of 65 Nigerians who recently secured scholarships to write graduate examinations required for overseas study. The scholarship was organised by the i-Scholar Initiative (ISI), a non-profit founded in 2019 and registered in Nigeria and the United States.
In her keynote address, Olujobi, a member of the ISI Board of Trustees (BoT), noted that failure to realise the potential of Africa’s youthful population is limiting the continent’s ability to compete globally.
She also noted that the lack of adequate investment is one of the reasons Nigeria has been adjudged to have the highest population of out-of-school children in the world according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“I am sure you have often heard the expression that children are our future. But have you ever stopped to ponder on the kind of future that is ahead based on the children that we have? There is no disputing the statistics that show that Nigeria has a large population, estimated at above 210 million people. Our demographics also show that over 60% of the population is below the age of 25 years.
“With Nigeria being the highest populated country in Africa, there is no doubt that Africa as a continent and Nigeria as a country are full of young men and women with potentially bright minds. The potential, however, has to be developed to deliver a good future – for the individual, the family unit, the Nation of Nigeria and the continent of Africa.
“Unfortunately, today, limited resources threaten the realization of the great potential that our young people carry. According to UNICEF, Nigeria has the highest population of out-of-school children in the world. The underinvestment in education threatens the potentials of Nigeria and the African continent limiting our ability to compete and deliver a bright future for our people in an increasingly competitive world, driven more and more by intellectual capacity.
“We at i-Scholar have chosen to be part of the solution by being one of several initiatives seeking to address the gap of underinvestment in education,” Olujobi said.
According to the iSI, the scholarship will cover payment for the Graduate Records Examination (GRE), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and applications for post-graduate studies abroad.
Speaking on the scholarship process, iSI Vice President (Operations), Dr Kunle Ojeleye, said that the 65 Nigerian scholars were selected from a pool of 1,450 applications based on the assessment of their achievements and their individual circumstances among others.
The iSI President, Victor Ogunmola also said that the organisation has sponsored over 120 Nigerians between 2019 and 2021, adding that its investment of $67,600 has yielded over $11.7 million in scholarships benefitted by over 104 scholars.
He added that the organisation that partners across the globe currently fund plans to expend about $50,000 in scholarships for its 2022 cohort in addition to the end-to-end mentoring of the graduates.
Chairperson of iSI BoT, Mrs Tolulope Ewherido, who was represented by another BoT member, Iyabode Attach, admonished the scholars to continue to portray the country in a good light in their sojourn overseas in spite of the challenges facing it.
She noted that the organisation will continue to help them achieve such heights, adding that “as long as you are willing, we will make ourselves available to you without a cost.”
While thanking the organisation for the opportunity, Mustapha Abdullahi, a first-class graduate of Computer Engineering at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, recalled how he made failed attempts to study abroad, adding that iSI opportunity will”push me forward to become an AI researcher.”
In the same vein, Joy Agbowodike, a graduate of Food Technology from the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Abeokuta, said: “My study abroad dreams are valid. I want to be an example to other HND (Higher National Diploma) graduates that with HND, you can get overseas opportunities.”
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