Moved by the need to transform lives and ensure the progress and development of the people of Ikare-Akoko, Ondo State, the Bisi Ogunjobi Foundation has for over 25 years, been awarding scholarships to indigent undergraduates of various disciplines. Funmi Ogundare reports
In the hilly and quiet community of Ishakunmi, Ikare, Ondo State, it was a feeling of excitement for 23 indigent indigenous undergraduates of various institutions as they were called out one after another to receive their cheques of N40,000 as scholarship from the founder of the Bisi Ogunjobi Foundation (BOF), Chief Bisi Ogunjobi, to enable them complete their studies.
Now in its 26th year, the foundation was established in May 12, 1991 to contribute to the advancement of the masses, particularly those in search of knowledge.
An Industrial Chemistry student of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo state, Miss Helen Oluwabunmi Olaniyi said her tuition fee was increased from N25,500 to N100,000 while expressing happiness for being a beneficiary of the scholarship.
Olaniyi whose father is a plumber and mother a non-teaching staff in the institution she attends said, “If not for the foundation, I would have dropped out of school. We will be starting our examinations soon and if you are yet to pay your fees, you will not be allowed to sit for the examinations.”
She appealed to the foundation to continue to assist the less privileged in the society.
An HND II Mass Communication student of Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, Ondo State, Kehinde Adebusuyi Adejoro, whose parents are traders, said they have been managing to pay his tuition fees, adding that the fund will inspire students to face their studies.
A Christian Religious Studies/Social Studies student of The Federal College of Education, Okene, Kogi State , Yomi Yinka Olawunmi whose parents are into petty trading and farming, said she will use the fund to buy textbooks and settle her tuition fee.
She thanked the foundation for the gesture.
Speaking at the 2017/2018 scholarship award ceremony and health awareness campaign on sickle-cell anemia, diabetes and hypertension held recently, at the BOF Centre, the founder, Chief Bisi Ogunjobi recalled how the programme started 26 years ago when he was Vice President (Operations), African Development Bank (AFDB), where he worked in promoting economic development in various parts of Africa.
According to him, “while I worked in promoting economic development in various parts of Africa, I had also concerned myself with personal efforts that could help improve the lot of people in my home community. We started the programme to support the education of the youths because we believe that education is power that would enable them transform themselves and influence the transformation of others .”
He also recalled a personal experience he had in his early life as a primary school pupil with a very poor handwriting saying that at that time, he had a classmate who was from a poor background but with a good writing who usually helped him to write his name on new books bought for him by his father.
“His parents were relatively poor and couldn’t afford to buy him books. Whenever my father bought new books for me, I would ask the boy to help write my name on them. I admired him. A few years after I left university and started working with the Central Bank of Nigeria, I was riding in my Toyota Corolla car one day and stopped at a filling station to get some gas.
“The attendant turned out to be that classmate of mine. I could see that the difference between both of us was the opportunity which I had to further my education, but which he didn’t have.
“This revelation sparked in me a strong desire to reach out to young people who found themselves in such straitened circumstances.”
Ogunjobi told THISDAY that once the immediate environment is influenced, it will enhance the development of the committee positively saying, “ the objective is to assist the educationally disadvantaged but brilliant students with poor parental background to attain higher education and training to promote the ideal of self-help and community service, to inculcate the spirit of social responsibility in the youths and contribute to economic development of the Nigerian society.”
Asked on the criteria for the selection of the indigent students, the founder said, “We started with the programme when we were focusing on our immediate community in Akoko area where we have four local governments. We also had to ensure that those that benefit are really indigent students, we also listed certain criteria to support some courses and preference for women. We also focused on Economics because that is my discipline. All these were put into consideration when selecting candidates.”
On his assessment of the programme over the years, he said, “ We have been very successful to a large extent. By the time BOF celebrated 25th anniversary of its establishment in 2016, we had awarded scholarships to over 900 Nigerian students, about 70 per cent of whom were university students, while an estimated 20 percent were students from other institutions, with secondary school students accounting for almost 10 per cent.
“Most of the beneficiaries who have acquired degrees and professional qualifications in different fields have gone on to become politicians, medical doctors , lawyers and experts in various professions.”
Asked how the foundation has been able to monitor the progress of the beneficiaries over the years, he said, “We use their university results to monitor their performance but more importantly, their success today. You can point to a lot who have been beneficiaries who are now successful in their fields now and those that have gone into politics especially the speaker of the state’s national assembly.”
He advised the beneficiaries to be serious with their studies because, “a lot of their parents are struggling to ensure that they can get education. They should refuse to be members of various cults and avoid drugs or joining evil societies, eschew peer pressure that will mislead them from being successful. I encourage them to be socially responsible in the community. One of the things I always say is that generosity is not a mark of wealth but an innate compassion.”
As a result of the foundation’s effort, he noted that it had received recognitions, and appreciation letters from the students and their parents saying, “they write letters to appreciate what we do for them, we also have the community and those that have benefitted from the programme themselves including the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in Akoko. We have recognised them and they have given us a lot of award.”
Emphasising on the health initiative, Ogunjobi said, “It is what the foundation has branched into to complement government’s effort in providing health facilities in the community and sensitize the people by creating an awareness that there are deadly diseases like hypertension , diabetes and sickle cell disorder, so that they will know exactly what it is and where to go for check up and treatment.. A lot of them cannot afford medications, so we also complement that by providing some of these drugs and screening exercise for treatment.”
A member of the Board of Trustees (BOT) , Mr. Samuel Alaba Adekola who thanked the founder for his generosity and service to humanity, advised the beneficiaries to use the opportunity judiciously.