Raphael Ede, Enugu
Ndeabor, the Aninri Local Government Area headquarters, came alive on May 11. It was the annual outing of the Ikeoha Foundation, when the less privileged in Enugu State get educational, health and other assistance from the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Dr Nwanneka Ekweremadu.
“Ikeoha foundation will never close down. It will continue to help more and more less privileged persons”, these were some of the prayers of jubilant lucky winners of the 2017/2018 Ikeoha undergraduates scholarship programme, who stormed Ndeabor on that fateful Saturday.
The lucky recipients had gathered from all corners of the state, radiating in joy as succour had come from God through the Ikeoha Foundation.
For Miss Nwafor Merciful, a 200 level Medical Labouratory student of University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, who was among the 19 students that received N400,000 scholarships award, God has visited her.
Miss Merciful, who said her father was late, expressed optimism that the scholarship would abridge the stress her mother was going through to get her and other siblings trained in the university.
She prayed that God would prosper Senator Ekweremadu, the founder of the foundation and shield him and his family from evil wind while describing the award as a divine gesture.
Narrating how she got the information about the scholarship programme, Merciful said: “Actually, I don’t know anybody, but I was in a bus and I heard the announcement on radio playing in the bus.
“While it was announced I wrote down the foundation’s website where interested students were directed to go and apply. So, I went back to school and applied online. Although when I initially told my mother, she warned me never to try it, but when I passed first and second screening, the family declared fasting and prayer for me to succeed.
“I am happy and grateful to God that three days ago I got a message from the foundation that I have made it. So, I say God bless them.”
Ikeoha Foundation was established in 1997 by Senator Ekweremadu, and his wife, Nwanneka as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), to provide for the basic educational and health needs of families living in poverty and below the radar of government-sponsored interventions.
However, speaking during the foundation’s adult literacy day and 2017/2018 scholarship/bursary award ceremony and free medical outreach, the Executive Director of the NGO, Cindy Anene Ezeugwu, commemnded the founder of the foundation, Senator Ekweremadu, just as she gave the scorecard of the organisation over the years.
“This tripartite event is in line with Senator Ekweremadu’s vision of philanthropy and commitment to continuously empower the great people of Enugu State through initiating and carrying out laudable programmes that were crafted to better the lives of the people,” she said.
She disclosed that the event like in every other year sees the Ikeoha foundation offering bursary awards to 300 undergraduates from Enugu State in the universities, monotechnics and polytechnics across the country to the tune of N40,000 per student while 19 undergraduates from the 17 local government areas in Enugu State receive full scholarship to the tune of N400,000 per student, packaged to fully fund their education from their first to final year. The executive director said that 302 adult learners from 32 Ikeoha Foundation Adult Literacy Centres, who were educated under Ikeoha free education programme, would receive their First School Leaving Certificates. This, according to her, would bring the number of beneficiaries to over 12,302. According Ezeugwu, “over 2,872 students have completed their university education courtesy of our bursary scheme, 50 undergraduate students are enjoying full university scholarship; 15 schools, their quiz masters and deserving students have received different categories of awards, including complete sets of science equipment, text and exercise books and financial assistance by participating in our annual secondary school quiz competition.
“20,000 units of anti-malarial drugs distributed to malaria-endemic areas; 5,477 adult learners fitted with reading glasses; 20 Co-operative societies supported with farming micro credit; 4,250 women and youths have been trained on modern agro-farming. Over 1,000 beneficiaries have participated in our ICT training programme while over 6,000 widows have been supported with household equipment, agro inputs and financial assistance since 2007,” she explained.
While unveiling the N25 million scholarship award and disbursements to the beneficiaries at Ndeabor, Aninri Local Government headquarters, Ekweremadu said that the gesture was his modest way of giving back to a society that had shown him consistent support over the years. Although beneficiaries of the bursary awards were supposed to be 300, but Ekweremadu, owing to the supports by his friends who donated at the event, increased the number of recipients to 380, while the initial award of N40,000 was increased to N50,000.
He, however, enjoined the beneficiaries to make the best use of the funds and also remember to bless others in their own way, especially when God uplifts them.
“By the grace of God, we will continue to do what we are doing. Our intention is to continue to improve on what we are doing and get more people to benefit. We started with beneficiaries from Enugu West, we now cover the whole of Enugu State, and we want to take it to the next level.
“We are also talking to our colleagues and friends and development partners across the world and if we succeed, we will also try as much as possible to extend it to the Southeast, to Nigeria and also to the rest of Africa.
“The society has offered us so many opportunities and this is just one little way of giving back to the society. The only thing we request of the beneficiaries is to copy what we are doing so that by the time God blesses you, you should also be a blessing to others.
“We are trying to plant this culture of giving in the minds of many people as possible. That is the only way our society can make progress. The best thing that will happen to you is when you are able to put happiness on the faces of ordinary people”.
While Ekweremadu looked at the future and economic challenges of the country, urged the clergy and the people to pray for the Foundation so that the human capital building efforts could continue.
On his part, the Governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, extolled Ekweremadu’s benevolence and charged the beneficiaries and members of the pubic to emulate him in their own little ways.
“It is not everybody that God gives that gives back to the society. To the beneficiaries I charge you to continue to pray for the family of your benefactor so that God will continue to order their steps,” the governor said.
Other speakers commended Senator Ekweremadu for the vision and prayed that God would sustain him. They equally donated various amounts of money to support the foundation. Commending the adult literacy students, who displayed various mental and physical skills during the event, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, member representing, Aninri, Awgu and Oji-River Federal Constituency, said: “I am delighted that you people have availed yourselves this opportunity to acquire education not minding your age.
“This means that there is no hindrance for you when you are determined to be somebody and make self-relevance.”
In a goodwill message, the Executive Director, Enugu State Agency for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education (SAME), Mrs Ifeoma Onyia, said that they were appreciating God for using Ikeoha Foundation to add value to the lives of mankind, especially the non-literate segments of the people.
She charged the foundation not to relent in its effort, adding that prior to 2015, when most of their centres were moribund, “you formed a bridge hence Enugu State was not left behind in providing the needed non-formal education literacy data to NMEC and UNESCO.”
Onyia described the foundation as a worthy partner in providing functional literacy skills, life-long learning opportunity to the non-literates, which she said is a panacea for altitudinal and behaviourial changes, thereby reducing many vices associated with illiteracy.
Meanwhile, over 500 women were offered free medical consultations and drugs for various ailments, during the event while free eye-care services were also provided by a team of medical experts.
Speaking in an interview, with our correspondent, the team leader of the medical outreach, Dr Diwe Ekweremadu, said that the objective of the annual medical outreach was “to support the provision of affordable and accessible high-quality medical services to the people of Enugu West constituency.
He said it was also to bring healthcare delivery to the doorstep of the people, as well as to create and sustain long-term community awareness in seeking health care.
The highlights of the event included a march past, cultural dances, recitations, and the unveiling of the 2017/2018 bursary and scholarship awards.