Alex Enumah writes about 37 indigent female undergraduates in various
Nigerian universities whose tears were wiped off through scholarship to further their education
Like a moonlight tale, Miss. Oladoja Simbiat told her story to a mammoth crowd. In a story laced with emotion, she said, “I am from a family of three. My father died early. He died when I was just seven years old. I barely knew him. Since he died, it has been my mother alone who has been carrying the burden of our education and she is a civil servant.”
The story of Oladoja, a 200 Level, Food Science and Nutrition Technology student of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, represents the story of many young girls and their struggle through life. But, for Oladoja and 36 others, there is now a lifeline. They are the recipients of the 2012 Nigerian Women Association of Georgia (NWAG) Scholarship Award.
And her story was not different from that of her other colleagues who benefitted from the kind gesture of the NWAG group. As they took turn to tell their stories and appreciate the women from Georgia for making it both possible and easier to realise their dreams, one thing was common to all of them; they were determined to achieve their dream of getting an education through the use of genuine and permissible means.
According to Oladoja, the road to a scholarship offer for her began on the internet. “In my desperation to stand up and be counted as somebody with formal education in the future, I decided to look out for help on the internet. I do go to the internet café to browse a lot about scholarships, just to search for any of the scholarships that I would be eligible to apply for. So, in one of my browsing moments I came across NWAG and I decided to apply. When I applied, a part of the test question was that I should write an essay and provide the reason for my application.
What I wrote in the essay was how I felt. The topic was, “if I was the first female president of Nigeria, what will I do differently in terms of the education sector.” I just wrote what I was passing through as a student in Nigeria and I wrote the sincere reason why I needed the scholarship.”
Founder of NWAG, Mrs. Dayo Keshi who disclosed that the scholarship was a result of a research which showed that girls prostitute in order to pay their school fees, advised the recipients and girls generally to always look for genuine alternatives, saying no girl-child should destroy her own future
She blamed a lot of the youths for being lazy and not resourceful enough to exploit abounding opportunities in their environment. “How curious and inquisitive are they to spend their pocket money in surfing the net searching for scholarship”, she asked. “It is there online. We have many scholarships that young people can benefit from, but do they bother to find out? No! They are waiting for THISDAY or The Guardian or other newspapers to publish, and then a friend would buy the paper and tell them about it. You cannot live your life that way; you must take your life in your hands. Go out there and search for something that you really need and make sure you use it well”, Keshi added.
Nigerian Women Association of Georgia started 12 years ago with just six members composed of Nigerian women resident in Atlanta Georgia. NWAG has grown to a membership of sixty who are positively changing the lots of many women both in Nigeria and in the US. “The passion to support our community in Atlanta and also the girls in Nigeria is mainly what NWAG is all about. NWAG focuses on empowering women both in Nigeria and in Atlanta by awarding scholarship to the indigent and deserving young girls,” stated Keshi.
She adds: “When we started I never knew we will come this far. When I started I didn’t think we would last for twelve years, I didn’t think that the organisation would grow this big. When we started the scholarship, I didn’t think that we would be able to give over three hundred already by this year.”
In her remarks, NWAG President, Mrs. Abby Ebodaghe stated that the mission of the association is to serve the local community of Georgia as well as their country Nigeria through empowerment, cultural enrichment and education of women, youth and children, thereby fostering togetherness and excellence in their collective pursuits.
She said, “We are here to support people that are voiceless, people that are less privilege, here in Nigeria and in our community which is Atlanta Georgia. One of the things we would like to achieve is unity and also be able to impact more lives.”
Ebodaghe who believes that one does not need to be wealthy before he/she can touch the life of another individual, called on Nigerians particularly the Women in position of influence to show genuine concern for the plight of young Nigerian girls, saying they are always disadvantageous.
She explained why her organisation focuses on girl-child, “the reason we focus on the girl-child is that if the men have enough money or even little money to educate someone in a family, they will educate male-child before given thought to the education of a girl-child. That is the thinking behind how this originated and that is why we focus on female child because they are disadvantaged in Nigeria. If they are not looked after they are going to end up in the kitchen just as one of the girls said earlier and that is why we focus on the girls because they don’t have as much platform to use as the men.”
While noting that the award of N50, 000 Scholarship being provided by her organization is not much taken into consideration the economic situation in Nigeria, she maintained that the culture of giving is being encouraged to allow those living in Nigeria who have the economic power to support those who do not have, especially in terms of educational support. “The money is here in Nigeria but a lot of people are not doing what we are doing. We have started a little at a time to make a difference in the lives of these girls and hopefully it will germinate into a bigger one.
Explaining how recipients of the awards were selected, International Coordinator/ Founding Member of NWAG, Mrs. Agatha Nnaji says one of the things the association considers is the need for economic empowerment and the circumstances of each person that summits an essay. “So it is not for people that can afford to pay their school fees. It is for those we identified to have some need and the inability to meet those needs. We base our judgment on part of the story they tell in their essay and part of the information they shared with us about their background and family”, Agatha stated.