Science and Technology (S&T) has been identified as one of the driving factors in the rapid economic development and transformation of any nation. Science and technology drives most of the critical sectors of the economy like health, agriculture, oil and gas, education, telecommunication etc.
In preparing for the future of a nation, there is need to build its workforce by encouraging the younger generation to pick interest in science and technology which is the key for development.
Perhaps with this as guide, telecommunications giant, MTN, through its corporate social responsibility arm, the MTN Foundation, launched a scholarship scheme, the MTN Foundation Science and Technology Scholarship Scheme, and Scholarship Scheme for Blind students, aimed at encouraging Nigerian youths to pick interest in science and technology education and development in tertiary institutions.
Speaking at the launch, a director at the foundation, Mr Dennis Okoro, said the scholarship was part of the organisation’s way of giving back to the society and encouraging students to strive for excellence. He said the beneficiaries were selected purely on merit and not by quota, stressing that the scholarship promotes excellence and students must maintain excellent grades to keep receiving grants.
He said: “This scholarship is about 3 things: trust, relationships and our future.
Over the last 17 years millions of Nigerians have trusted MTN with the task of providing telecommunication services to them, By virtue of this trust we have become the market leaders for which we’re forever grateful to our customers in particular and all Nigerians in general. This is why MTN Foundation has invested time, resources and energy into our services with the goal of building better relationships and working together to build a brighter future.
“We operate on three major areas, education, economic empowerment and health. So, we now divided it to courses, we do what is called mother and child which includes education of the child from the womb to the university. So, this is part of our programme for undergraduates, and we found that science and technology is an area we need to encourage.”
Okoro said the foundation had given scholarship awards to 8,145 students in Africa valued at N1.6 billion, adding 3,114 Nigerian students had benefited under the scholarship scheme and 1,289 had since graduated.
He congratulated the new and existing students of the alumni and assured them of continued partnerships and assistance even after their graduation.
In his keynote address, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, described scholarship as a form of student support programme aimed at rewarding excellent academic performance, and reduce burden of paying high cost of tuition and other schooling expenses on parents and commended MTN for the gesture.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria is glad that MN has keyed into the scholarship award programme of this administration and therefore expresses deep appreciation to the foundation for this laudable achievement.”
The minister represented by Mr Olagunju Lateef said it was also noteworthy that MTN Foundation does not only give scholarship awards but also ensures that the graduating beneficiaries from the scheme participate in employability workshop to ensure that they are better equipped for the labour market.
He, however, said government would appreciate it if more scholarships would be made available to the teaming brilliant but indigent young Nigerians across the country in subsequent editions.
“It is therefore my wish that other multinational companies and organizations in Nigeria take a queue from MTN in support of the efforts of the Federal Government of Nigeria in the area of scholarship delivery to Nigerians.
“To the beneficiaries of this award, I congratulate you and also encourage you to maintain the standard of performance that has qualified you among other contestants. I wish to remind you that the scheme is renewed annually for awardees that maintain the specified high academic performance level for a maximum period of 3 years up to the year of graduation,” he added.
Earlier, the vice chancellor of the University of Abuja (Unibuja), Prof. Indi expressed delight at the foundation’s gesture of training students in science and technology, saying the sector has consistently failed to meet its quota in admission in the university.
He said as a university professor and a scientist, any effort at encouraging youths in science and technology always gives him joy. “This is because the tertiary education policy of 60 per cent to science and technology and 40 per cent to arts and other disciplines in admission policy is not being achieved,” he said.
He commended MTNF for their commitment to academic pursuits of persons with sight and financial challenge.
“In this era of economic recovery and slow growth where corporate organisations have either scaled down their corporate social responsibility or suspended it all together, it is heartwarming that MTN Foundation is sustaining their contribution to the educational development of our youths,” he stated.
The university don urged the awardees to take the scholarship seriously, saying it is an important impetus for them to continue their programme unhindered because of the significant impact it would have on their financial wellbeing.
“Work hard to renew your scholarships and also win academic laurels through outstanding academic performances and be a source of pride to MTN Foundation and your parents and guidance,” he counseled the beneficiaries.