By Lawani Mikairu
Forty three Nigerians have been given grants by the United States government to participate in U.S. Department of State academic and exchange programmes in America universities.
Each year, more than 40,000 participants from countries throughout the world, including the United States, have opportunities to build common bonds, share ideas and further mutual understanding through exchange programmes sponsored by United States Government.
This exchange programme is not restricted to academics alone, it include government officials and private entrepreneurs. Among prominent Nigerians who have benefited from this exchange include Professor Attahiru Jega, current Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President of Nigeria and Professor Adebowale Ibibope Adefuye, currently serving as Nigerian Ambassador to the United States.
The selection process for the grantees was very rigorous as among fellow alumni of U.S. Government sponsored exchange programmes worldwide are 47 Nobel Laureates, thousands of cabinet-level ministers, and more than 300 current and former heads of state or heads of government.
The exchange programme alumni from Africa include the presidents of Guinea, Togo, Kenya, and Mozambique. These exchanges include the prestigious Fulbright,International Visitor Leadership (IVLP),
Hubert H Humphrey Fellowship, and Study of the United States Institutes for Faculties & Student Leaders. Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) programme.
A pre-departure orientation was organized for the grantees on Monday by the America Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Terence McCulley in Abuja. In his remarks, Mr Terence congratulated the grantees for being among the chosen few and also recognize the presence and contributions of the alumni members towards making this programme a success.
He further said America Mission staff from Abuja and Lagos, as well as alumni members will share practical experiences regarding studying and living in the United States with grantees.
In addition they will provide up-to-date information regarding privileges, obligations, J-1 visa status, health insurance policy, tax policy among others, which are important for them to know .
On the gains of the programme ,Mr Terence said”Alumni can have an equally impressive local impact as they do a global scale. From starting civic organizations, advocating human rights, to organizing disaster-relief efforts, alumni have returned home with ideas and acted upon them.
Here in Nigeria, one individual alumnus was so inspired by her International Visitor Leadership Programme experience, that she returned to her former secondary school and established a scholarship programme to assist young girls further their education.