BUKOLA OGUNSINA writes that no other country has the number of applicants for the prestigious Chevening Scholarships as Nigeria. Based on merit, the fully-funded scholarship, annually given by the British government has lifted a good number of Nigerians. Recently, Paul Arkwright the British High Commissioner celebrated successful Nigerians who won the 2016/2017 Scholarship programme.
The night was young, the invitees filled with a sense of achievement; of hopes realised; of dream come true. It was at the residence of the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, His Excellency Paul Arkwright. People who had made it to become Chevening Scholars were being ushered in, some with their guests, others with their thoughts of what lay ahead.
The evening was not without jokes and pleasantries too. “Is her name on the list,?” the security enquired of a guest who had come accompanied by a scholar, “no, she is my guest,” the scholar said. “Her name is not on the list, sorry she can’t come in,” he responded sharply, giving her a deadpan expression. And just as the scholar stared confused, lost for words, he broke into a huge grin to declare, “Just joking!” and politely ushered them in.
People mingled, talking excitedly about things they discovered they had in common, same universities they were admitted too, courses, lifestyles, and of course the occasional hugs upon sighting an old friend who had made it too.
Omoboyowa Roberts who is one of the beneficiaries of the Chevening Scholarship, 2016/2017 told LEADERSHIP Sunday that, “this for me is a dream come true, something I had always looked forward to even from my university days. I am going to be studying, Masters in Peace and Development at Leeds Beckett University.
“I think it’s a global opportunity to meet with other scholars and to be a part of the alumni, and above all to be able to get the investment where you can come back and develop Nigeria as a whole, so, it’s been a fantastic opportunity, and I am happy to be privileged to be a part of the global network,” she said excitedly.
The Chevening Scholarships are the UK Government’s overseas scholarships, awarded to individuals with demonstrable leadership potential who also have good academic backgrounds. The scholarship not only offers financial support for people studying for a master’s degree at any UK university, it also allows beneficiaries become part of an influential global network of 46,000 alumni. In 2015, 45 Nigerian benefited from the fully funded scholarship.
Arkwright, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, began the evening with a welcome address and some advice to beneficiaries at the reception.
“This is the second time I have had a Chevening reception. Last year, we welcomed the scholars back to Nigeria after they had finished their one year in the UK. I am very pleased to see a few of those people who were here last year, come back to wish good luck to all our new scholars.
“So, a very warm welcome to all, who have won Chevening scholarships this year. To wish you the best of luck, to think about how you can contribute to Nigeria when you come back. I think that is a very important part of the Chevening philosophy if you like. It is about you, going out to the UK, benefitting from the best education in the world. I can say that because, I am a product of it. And most important of all, in my view is how you use that expertise, how you use your networks, your new friends to benefit this great country of Nigeria.
“Those of you who are part of the alumni network are part of a huge network, what we are trying to do is build up the network in Nigeria. We have over 1000 Nigerians who have been through the Chevening programme, but we only have about 150 people on our database.
So one of the things I am going to ask you guys to do, both the current alumni and those who are going out there in the next few weeks is to reach out to some of your friends, find out who’s got Chevening scholarships and let others know, so that we can increase that database, we can help you with your own networks as well as have a better sense of who it is who are particularly good friends of the UK because they have been to British universities and benefitted from a British education.”
This year, Nigeria had the most applications for Chevening scholarship which was about 4000. The High Commissioner also stressed on the importance of funding the programme so that more Nigerians could be beneficiaries as he called on the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to encourage their best to apply for a Chevening scholarship, as the scholarship needs more people in the civil service and government sectors.
Big names such as Channels television’s John Momoh, Nigeria’s Comptroller general of Immigration and many more have benefitted from the awards, including the Ministry of Foreign affairs Permanent Secretary, Audu-Rafiu Olusola Enikanolaiye. Supporting the network would in turn not just aid social networking, but provide opportunities for future generations of Nigerians.
“One of the things that I am determined to do is to encourage people who have benefitted from the Chevening scholarship to give back to the Chevening scholarship by helping to provide finance for scholarships. And again we are looking for partnerships, and you can help with that, you can help with even giving some guidance to the kind of study that you would think will be beneficial to your company, your institution, “Arkwright said. He commended Laddoll Logistics who provided funding for the Chevening scholarships awardees. “We want to see a lot more companies partnering with us in helping Nigerians do this in the future,” he said.
The president of the Chevening Alumni Association in Nigeria, Mr Tom Odemwingie said, “I won this scholarship many years ago. I did my programme in 1990/1991. When I was about to leave the UK, one of my friends said to me, why are you going back to Nigeria, I can arrange for you to stay behind if you want? The whole idea of me accepting this scholarship was for me to do a programme here, go back home and help our people, that’s the kind of challenge you are going to face. Someone is going to tell you, why do you want to go back?
“But the reason you should go back is to go and solve a problem. There’s the other issue of when you come back, what do you do? I became the president of the alumni association in 2011. We got the Corporate Commission to register the association, as Chevening Alumni Association. Since that time it has been very frustrating to get people to participate in the activities of the association. But I like to report that very recently we had a number of very enthusiastic alumni who are saying we must do something. We want to be able to inspire activities around Nigeria. He commended the High Commissioner for his commitment to the alumni.
A Chevening Scholar, with an offer at London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine to study Health Policy Planning and Financing, Chinwe Chikwendu, said “Perhaps why I am actually most excited is because it’s not just me, from my family here tonight, my younger brother happens to also be a beneficiary. We are going to the same university; we are going to do the same course, so I bet you this goes to show the level of transparency that is actually applied in the Chevening scholarship selection, because if there was any other thing that is considered then both of us would not be here tonight. I want to say, a big thank you to UK government first of all for the Chevening scholarship scheme, because this is just something very wonderful that has really helped so many people achieve their dreams, it is also something that has given many people the opportunity they had never really imagined they would get. So it’s something really wonderful, and I think the best way to reward the British government and Chevening, is for us to go out there to the UK and make the most of the opportunity.
“Imbibe the knowledge, to interact, to network and to improve ourselves and add more value to ourselves, so when we come back to Nigeria we will definitely add more to the human capital that is available for the growth and development of Nigeria,” he said.