By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
Thousands of students who are indigenes of Lagos, Ondo, Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa States studying Medical and Engineering courses in various tertiary institutions are currently smiling to banks, courtesy of the N118 million scholarship funds made available by Agbami partners, a group of oil companies.
The scholarship programme, known as the Agbami Medical and Engineering Professionals Scholarship (AMEPS), is being funded by Star Deep Water Petroleum Limited (a Chevron Company); Famfa Oil Limited; Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; Statoil Nigeria Limited and Petroleo Brasileiro Nigeria Limited (Petrobras).
These partners are providing 500 students of Medicine/Dentistry with N200,000 each annually, 750 students of Nursing with N100,000 each per year, 750 students of Laboratory Science with N100,000 each annually as well as 750 students of Engineering with N100,000 each per year.
The promise of these partners to dole out the moneyÂ to the students was actually fulfilled last week when students of Rivers and Lagos States origin were given cash cards to withdraw the money from ATM machines anywhere in the country.
The awards ceremony for the 75 indigenes of Lagos State, which took place at Muson Centre, was attended by top functionaries of Governor Babatunde Raji Fasholaâ€™s (SAN) administration who were full of encomiumsÂ for the programme.
Leading the state governmentâ€™s delegation was Princess Sarah Adebisi Sosan, the deputy governor who also doubles as the commissioner of education.
The choice of medical and engineering courses for the scholarship programme, she says, is appropriate because it will help in developing the health delivery and technical manpower which are central to societal needs.
Her words: â€œIâ€™m happy with the decision of the Agbami partners to concentrate on health and human capital development. There is no investment more enduring and more rewarding than investing in the future leaders of Nigeria. Youth development programmes are central to education. It is highly commendable that the Agbami partners are, inspite of the economic meltdown, still able and willing to commit resources to the AMEPS project.â€
The Special Adviser on Education to Governor Fashola, Dr Elijah Olu Adewale spoke in the same vein. HeÂ described the award of the scholarship funds to the students as a right step in the right direction because Engineering, Medicine and Dentistry are disciplines that could be described as essential engines of growth, adding that the scholarship is also timely now that Lagos State is being transformed into a Mega City status which requires manpower developmentÂ to manage all the health facilities and modern infrastructures that have been put in place.
The oil partners, he added, have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that they care about the youths and the economic development of the nation.
The recipients of the 2009 AMEPS are students of tertiary institutions in their first or second year of study and the programme is merit-based. For the 100 level students to qualify for shortlisting, they must have scored 240 in the JAMB – conducted Universities Matriculation Examination (UME) while only beneficiaries who maintain the mandatory Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or equivalent of 60% scores of their annual grading systems are retained on the scheme throughout the duration of their current programmes.
Those who fail to score up to 3.0 automatically drop out of the programme. The scheme is executed in partnership with the Scholarship Boards and governments of the various benefitting states.
Seriki Muritala, one of the student beneficiaries of the award, who spoke on behalf of other awardees, said that the genuine commitment of Lagos State government in relieving students of their financial burden as evident in its robust local and foreign scholarship as well as bursary for Arts, Science, Engineering, Medical, Law, Architectural, Pharmacy and Pharmacology students as well as for physically challenged students mightÂ have influenced the decision of the Agbami partners to package the scholarship funds for them.
He commended the partners for their generosity towards them, promising that they will always live up to the high academic standard expected of them.
Mr Andrew Fawthrop of Star Deep Water Petroleum Limited who was represented by Mr. Ken Sample challenged the awardees to make the best of the opportunity, by graduating at the top of their various courses, and entering into the service of Nigeria as upright and highly competent professionals who would make the country proud at all times.
Indeed, the Agbami Medical and Engineering Professionals Scholarship is just one of the educational projects of the partners. The construction of science laboratories for schools at the behest of the partners is another major area of their intervention in the education sector.
St. Judeâ€™s Girls Secondary School, Amarata; Bayelsa State, Majidun Senior Secondary School, Lagos State; Igbokoda Grammar School, Ondo State and Zik Senior Secondary School, Sapele, Delta State are beneficiaries of the partnersâ€™ science laboratories project.
The decision to construct science laboratories resulted from a needs-assessment which showed that many science students in Nigeria have never enjoyed the benefit of modern, fully equipped science laboratories for their applied science practical instructions.
This informed the building and equipping of modern science laboratories in some communities across the country by the Agbami partners.
The partners also funded the purchase of a modern automated gravity meter, the CG-5 autograv machine for donation to the physics department of the University of Lagos in July this year and sponsored two officials of the department for specialized training overseas on the operation of the machine.
As a result, students of Physics and other related courses in the university now have access to one of the most modern key equipment in field thereby enhancing their training.