The story of the educational journey of Gift Monday Kiddy, a visually impaired 100-Level Music undergraduate of the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State , is one that inspires. From a very young age, he was determined to, in his words, “Erase the mindset of many who believe that he should be a beggar on the street”, as well as prove that despite his condition , he can get the best education he could have.
With such determination, one that is rare in this part of the world, and gifted with intelligence, he worked hard through primary and secondary schools and, today, he is an undergraduate at one of the top federal government-owned universities. To crown it, he has just won a full university education scholarship, courtesy of the Savannah Energy Education and Internship Training (SEE-IT) programme.
The programme, a collaboration between Accugas Limited, the midstream subsidiary of Savannah Energy, and the Inoyo Toro Foundation, a non-profit educational foundation based in Akwa Ibom State, is aimed at enhancing access to quality education in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States. The scholarship packages cover full tuition, accommodation, textbooks and living costs for the duration of the beneficiaries’ university education in Nigeria.
“I’m so privileged to be a recipient of this scholarship; it is mind-blowing. I was not expecting it up to this extent. It is surprising that the scholarship covers my keyboard KZ 900, and my laptop which will make my studies flexible as a visually impaired,” said an overjoyed Kiddy.
Kiddy was just one of the 50 students from Akwa Ibom State to benefit from the programme. Another beneficiary with a similar touching story is Winifred Wisdom Effiong, a 100-Level English Language/Literary Studies student of Akwa Ibom State University. An orphan, she has had a very tough upbringing, and has been residing in one of International Federation of Women Lawyers’ (FIDA) shelter-homes in Uyo.
Today, thanks to the SEE-IT programme, she has one less thing to worry about – her university education expenses. The significance and impact of this is not lost on Effiong.
“It wouldn’t have been easy because I never thought of seeing myself in the university. I’m so happy for this great privilege; all thanks to Savannah Energy and the Inoyo Toro Foundation,” she said.
For many of the other recipients, the scholarship award is not only God-sent, but timely too. The moving story of Larry Bassey David, a first-year Medicine/Surgery student at the University of Uyo, also highlights the significance of the programme. He had gained admission the same year as his sister. However, due to financial challenges, he was on the verge of deferring his admission so that her sister could continue her studies.
“It has been tough, because my sister is also in the university. We got admitted at the same time, and the course I’m studying is financially challenging. So, words can’t describe how happy I am. I really want to say a big thank you to Savannah Energy and the Inoyo Toro Foundation for helping in lifting this heavy load from us,” David said.
David, Effiong, Kiddy and the 47 other beneficiaries, who were selected through a rigorous screening process led by university professors, were presented with the scholarships during the SEE-IT 2023 Annual Teachers/Scholarship Award held in Uyo, recently.
However, the students weren’t the only ones who benefited from the programme, as SEE-IT also presented awards to 19 secondary school teachers, three principals and five mentors of secondary school teachers, who have positively impacted their pupils in Akwa Ibom State public secondary schools. The awards covered five subjects namely:
Biology, Chemistry, English, Mathematics and Physics.
The SEE-IT programme is a laudable development for the teaching profession especially in Nigeria’s public schools where teachers contend with several challenges such as poor remuneration, irregular payment of salaries, inadequate training, lack of basic teaching equipment, among others.
Speaking during the event, managing director, Savannah Energy, Nigeria, Pade Durotoye, reiterated the importance of education which, he said, is not only a key part of the company’s sustainability strategy, but one that is integral to its purpose, which is to meaningfully contribute to the development of the communities where it operates.
“Our first pillar focuses on promoting socio-economic prosperity within the countries in which we operate. As a company, we have invested over US$1bn in Nigeria, especially in the South East, to deliver projects that matter. We are delighted that we are offering full university education scholarships to the 50 students until they graduate,” he said.
According to Durotoye, the company plans to add more students to the scholarship programme every year.
Akwa Ibom State governor, Umo Eno, represented by the commissioner for Education, Idongesit Etiebet, commended the initiative and urged other world-class individuals and organisations to “rise to the challenge and emulate the laudable gesture of Savannah Energy, in collaboration with Inoyo Toro Foundation, by investing in the education of our children, who represent the future of our state and our country.”
The annual event, he noted, has become a reference point in Public-Private Partnership arrangements in the education sector of the state since inception, particularly in areas of scholarship awards to students and the recognition of the immense contributions of hard-working teachers and principals of public secondary schools in the state.
On the screening process for the awards, chairman of the Committee, Inoyo Toro Foundation, Prof Enobong Joshua, said that written and oral interactions were handled according to established rules and procedures with transparency and integrity. According to him, the expert facilitators were carefully selected from the academia and the public sector.
The SEE-IT programme is a good example of how private sector intervention can help the government to drive the growth of education in Nigeria through the motivation of teachers and award of scholarships to brilliant but indigent students.