Many Nigerian youths with distinctive academic potential have failed to realise their goals in life due to lack of financial means to pursue their academic dreams. This drawback comes with negative implications for the nation’s economic development. However, some private sector firms such as MTN Foundation has through their various educational projects, invest in initiatives that aim to address this.
Today, a greater percentage of Nigeria’s productive population struggle to gain admission into tertiary institutions due to different factors including lack of required financial resources to pursue and actualise their dreams.
In 2018/2019 academic year, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), the body in charge of matriculation exams into tertiary institutions in Nigeria disclosed that only 585,498 candidates out of the 1,662,762 that wrote 2018/2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), gained admission into tertiary institutions that year.
Sadly, some of these students who gained admission that year were not able to pay their tuition fees and cater for their school supplies considering the recent economic issues. This iswhy educationists believed that the private sector’s collaboration with the government would help in bridging the gap in providing such students with the opportunity to pursue their careers.
Industry close watchers believed that it has become imperative for brilliant students in tertiary institutions to be provided with the opportunity to study. This can be achieved through a strategic investment in scholarship programmes by private sector firms to complement government’s effort in this direction.
This would not only become beneficial to these young ones but would also afford them the opportunity to contribute their talents towards the socio-economic development of the country.
Presently, scholarship awards from the government are still insufficient owing to the fact that it leaves a lot of brilliant candidates uncared for.
Recent data obtained from the Federal Scholarship Board shows that between 2015 and 2018, only about 3,003 students benefitted from the Federal Government Scholarship to study in public tertiary institutions in Nigeria. These scholarships were awarded to candidatesto study in different degree levels including Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), postgraduate degrees, first degrees, Higher National Diploma (HND), and National Certificate in Education (NCE).
Interestingly, some proactive organisations such as the MTN Foundation, are already partnering with the government in this regard.
MTN Foundation, a social investment vehicle of MTN Nigeria is funded with one per cent of MTN Nigeria’s profit after tax, which places importance on education and technology development in Nigeria.
Established on May 11, 2005, MTN Foundation has shown commitment to deeper engagements with the youth across the six geopolitical zonesof the country owing to the fact that it understands the critical role youths play in the economic growth of Nigeria.
This is why the Foundation built its sustainability strategy in line with continued investments in skill development for the youth. MTN Foundation’s mission is evident in its support for several youth-oriented initiatives alongside its aggressive innovative drive.
In keeping with its mission to recognise and promote academic excellence among high-performing students in various accredited Nigerian public tertiary institutions, the MTN Foundation under its Youth Development Cause has continued to provide scholarshipsincluding the MTN Science and Technology Scholarship Students (MTN STSS) and the MTN Scholarship for Blind Students.
The vision of this telecommunication giant for venturing into scholarship intervention was to aid Nigerian youths to fulfill their dreams. An initiative such as the MTN Science andTechnology Scholarship Students which is currently in its 12th year has awarded over 300 students scholarships, from inception till date.
While the MTN Scholarship for Blind Students, which is in its 10th year, is targeted at qualified 200 level blind students studying any course in Nigerian public tertiary institutions including Universities, Polytechnics, and Colleges of Education.
Currently, 60 successful blind students are awarded scholarships annually till graduation if such students maintain the required grades.
On the scholarship schemes, Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, chairman of MTN Foundation said theFoundation since its inception in 2005 has remained committed to improving the quality of life of Nigerian citizens through its various initiatives in the education sector.
“Over the years, the foundation has offered several academic scholarships for tertiary students, together with ICT and business skills training. The MTN Foundation has awarded over 9,644 scholarships valued at N1.93 billion for its various scholarships schemes, one of which is the MTN MUSON Music Scholars Programme,” he said.
Industry close watchers believed that it has become imperative for brilliant students in tertiary institutions to be provided with the opportunity to study.
Continuing, he said: “MTNF gives talented musicians annual scholarships to acquire a certificate in music at the MUSON School of Music to preserve and promote arts and culture in Nigeria. In the past 15 years, over 380 Nigerians have been recipients of this scholarship.”
On her part, OdunayoSanya, executive secretary, MTN Foundation said MTN is committed to ensuring that Nigerian youths reach their full potential.
“MTN understands the important role youths play in nation-building and through its foundation is committed to their development, which underscores our various interventions in the education sector. As a foundation that is committed to building the capacity of youths, MTN Foundation scholarships are more than just funds; it maintains the disbursement of the sum of N200,000.00 annually to cover each awardee’s tuition, book allowance, and stipend, till graduation as long as the beneficiary maintains the required grades,” she explained.
Beyond offering scholarships to exceptional students in-country, inadequate investment in infrastructure for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) education, is another challenge limiting educational institutions in Nigeria from providing students with the appropriate facilities to study.
This is because in Nigeria today, just like most developing nations of the world, poor infrastructural development is witnessed in almost all sectors of the economy due to scarce resources.
However, MTN Foundation has through its educational initiatives in the last two decades invested in addressing the infrastructure gap in some educational institutions in Nigeria.
For instance, the MTNF Science & Technology Laboratory Project initiative has been able to renovate and equip laboratories and turn them into state-of-the-art science laboratories. This project helps to improve learning and practical teaching of core science subjects in public secondary schools in order to enhance students’ academic performance.
To further strengthen the value chain of human capital development, the Foundation also supports people with disabilities by funding their education, an initiative that has received a commendation.
NdowaLale, eighth substantive vice-chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt in Rivers State, who lauded the telecommunication company for their support to education through its educational initiatives and scholarships aimed at helping students actualise their academic aspirations.
The Vice-Chancellor was of the view that the country needs to get a workforce that is very comfortable with technology.
“In a country where we need world-class educational institutions, interventions such as the one the MTN Foundation is providing willenable students to be very vast in Science,Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” he added.
These initiatives among others are proof of MTN foundation’s commitment to the sustainable development of human capital in education for Nigeria. As a foundation that is committed to the development of Nigerian youths, MTN Foundation recognises education as the bedrock of sustainable development, which is why education is one of its core social investment areas.
It is the belief of stakeholders in the education sector that with interventions such as what MTN Foundation is currently undertaking, millions of youths will be spurred to embrace their dreams without fear of financial constraints.
They will also have the liberty to discover and display their hidden potential to contributetheir skills, not just for the growth of Nigeria, but the world at large. Thus, the need for other well-meaning private sector organisations in Nigeria to consider emulating MTN Foundation’s interventions in the educational sector in order to boost learning.