Recently, the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) awarded N16 million worth of scholarship to 16 students who performed well in the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). Each of the beneficiaries, who have indicated interest to study engineering courses in Nigerian universities, will receive N200, 000 per year for the next five years. Each of them also got a brand new laptop. The best candidate, Maduafokwa Egoagwuagwu Agnes, who scored 365 out of 400 in the examination, got an extra new laptop and a tablet donated by the President of the Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria, Mrs. Funmilola Ojelade, and other sponsors.
We congratulate the students on their uncommon achievements. Miss Maduafokwa, who was a student of Louisville Girls High School, Ijebu-Itele in Ogun State, scored 72 in Use of English, 99 in Mathematics, 99 in Physics and 95 in Chemistry. A citizen of Ihiala in Anambra State, the young girl hopes to use the knowledge she will acquire after her education to solve societal problems.
We commend her and her colleagues for continuing in the tradition of their compatriots who attained similar feats in the past. Last year, for instance, Ezeunala Ekene Franklin from Orsu LGA in Imo State scored 347 out of 400 to emerge the highest scorer in the 2019 UTME. He scored 78 in English, 91 in Mathematics, 86 in Physics and 92 in Chemistry. Ekene passed through Meiran Community Senior High School, Lagos.
Besides UTME, many Nigerian students had performed excellently in the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) examinations. Some of them scored ‘A’ in all the subjects they entered for in the examination. In 2018, WAEC awarded three girls the overall best students in Nigeria. They included Miss Isabelle Gelegu from Oritamefa Baptist Model School Ibadan, Miss Favour Ngozi Etuonuma of Eucharistic Heart of Jesus Model College in Ilorin, Kwara State and Miss Adenike Temitope Adedara of Louisville Girls High School, Ijebu-Itele in Ogun State. They came first, second and third, respectively in the National Distinction/Merit Award 2017.
Last year, the then 16-year-old Miss Ugboaja Chizobam Stephany from Jesuit Memorial College, Port Harcourt, emerged the youngest, best candidate recorded by WAEC. She scored A1 in all the nine subjects she took. The then Imo State Governor, Emeka Ihedioha, rewarded her and Favour Alozie, who also scored A1 in all subjects, with full scholarship to study in any university of their choice.
A Nigerian from Anambra State, Chidubem Obi, recently graduated with 5.0 CGPA from Sechenov Medical University in Russia. Obi happens to be the first African to achieve this feat since the inception of the university.
Two years ago, five young Nigerian girls from Regina Pacis Girls’ Secondary School, Onitsha, Anambra State, Promise Nnalue, Jessica Osita, Nwabuaku Ossai, Adaeze Onuigbo and Vivian Okoye, emerged the champion of world technovation contest in the United States. The girls beat contestants from the US, Spain, Mexico, China, Turkey, Egypt, Uzbekistan and some others. They developed a mobile application called FD (Fake Drug) Detector adjudged the most innovative entry in the competition. The application is meant to detect fake drugs in Nigeria.
The great performance of Nigerians in every field of endeavour is an indication of the great human resources that abound in the country. Unfortunately, poor leadership has been the bane of nurturing these great talents to international limelight. Sometimes, merit is sacrificed on the altar of mediocrity and nepotism. Also, such discriminatory and retrogressive practices as educationally disadvantaged states, catchment areas and similar policies stifle the progress and manifestation of the potential of our young intellectuals.
This is partly why our bright students and professionals migrate abroad to achieve their academic goals. In the United States of America, Nigerian immigrants are said to be the most educated among the racial or ethnic groups. In a 2006 American Community Survey conducted by the US Census Bureau, about 17 per cent of Nigerians in the US had master’s degrees, four per cent had a doctorate, while 37 per cent had bachelor’s degrees. About 25 per cent of all black students at Harvard Business School are said to be Nigerians. Besides, the first black woman to be president of the Harvard Law Review, Imelme A. Umana, is a Nigerian. Many Nigerians have also excelled in different fields of endeavours abroad. Some are big time entrepreneurs. Some are founders and chief executive officers of tech companies in the US.
To develop as a country and catch up with advanced societies, we need to abolish retrogressive policies that stifle merit and development. We must find a way of encouraging talented and gifted children.
The President of the NSE, Babagana Mohammed, underscored the significance of the scholarship to the 2020 best UTME candidates when he said: “The seeds for Nigerian and indeed African technological transformation and breakthrough need to be planted and nurtured today.”
We commend the NSE for giving these brilliant students a chance to further their education in engineering. No doubt, it is one sure way of encouraging gifted children and we urge other organisations to do same. The federal and state governments should also initiate a similar programme as it is another major way of developing science and technology.