For their outstanding performances in their first degree courses which earned them first class honours from their respective universities, federal government has rewarded 101 first class graduates with scholarships to study in 25 top universities across the world up to doctorate degree level.
Presenting the awards to the beneficiaries on Monday in Abuja, the Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Rufa’i said the award was a celebration of “yet another milestone in the development of the education sector.
She said that federal government was confident that by awarding the scholarship to the deserving candidates, it was sowing a seed that would bear tremendous benefit to the country.
The Minister noted that the Presidential Scholarship Scheme for Innovation and Development was instituted by the federal government as part of efforts to achieve the Vision: 20:2020 and the transformation agenda of the present administration.
“The federal government plans to develop a critical mass of professionals who would serve as catalysts of change and agents of scientific and technological advancement, as well as sustainable economic development”. She said
Professor Rufai said the scheme was meant to select candidates who had excelled in specified disciplines such as sciences, basic medical sciences and special aspects of biology. Others, she said, were economics, engineering and technology and medicine.
“For the first time in Nigeria, we have carried out a selection process that is based purely on merit. Mr President’s instruction was vey clear from day one; that merit, and merit only, be the criterion for selecting the awardees,” she added.
She explained that of the 1300 candidates who applied for the scholarship, 449 were shortlisted and invited for the computer-based test and all of them passed, but only 101 of them could be accommodated because of limited spaces as a maiden scheme.
Professor Rufai congratulated the 101 beneficiaries that scaled the last hurdle urging them to be law abiding, humble and God fearing, but warned that government would not hesitate to withdraw their scholarship if they are found involved in any act capable of daunting the image of the country.
She said the scope of the offer included tuition, accommodation, and heating, transportation, living expenses and local travels, adding that the actual breakdown would be known when the awardees received their admission letters.
Earlier in an address, Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okojie said “divine providence had put Nigeria on the path of recovery in the education sector” through the present administration.
Professor Okojie said that Nigeria once found itself as the giant of Africa because of the scholarship opportunities, which consequently bred thorough professionals that contributed greatly to the development of the country.
He expressed confidence that the scheme was an investment by the government that would yield good harvest in due course.
The Executive Secretary urged the beneficiaries to be hardworking and tolerant as there were bound to be challenges outside the shores of your home such as discrimination.