Currently, in its 12th year, the MTN Foundation has continued to ensure that the higher education and future aspirations of brilliant students are not truncated due to financial constraints. The Foundation does this through its annual Science and Technology Scholarship and Scholarship for Blind Students, Uchechukwu Nnaike reports
With the harsh economic situation in the country, many brilliant youths that desire higher education are denied access due to inadequate funds. Reports indicate that about 18 per cent of students in Nigerian tertiary institutions drop out of school for financial reasons, thereby truncating their dreams.
Such a challenge is gradually being addressed through the award of scholarships to deserving students to enable them to acquire higher education. The federal government, corporate organizations, NGOs, and individuals currently have several scholarship initiatives to support brilliant but indigent youths to realise their academic dreams and contribute to national development.
One of such initiatives is the MTN Foundation Scholarships which seek to provide support for students studying science and technology discipline, blind students of any discipline in public tertiary institutions across the country and the top 10 highest scoring candidates in the annual UTME exams. Annually, up to 360 new scholarships are included in the initiative, with old scholarships renewed based on ongoing academic performance.
Each recipient receives a scholarship worth N200,000 starting from when they qualify until graduation as long as they meet the required Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA). The scholarship covers tuition, book allowance and stipend.
The initiative seeks to recognise and reward qualified high-performing students studying full-time courses in public tertiary institutions (universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education) in Nigeria. The foundation has so far awarded scholarships worth over N3 billion to over 4,000 students.
Established in July 2004, the MTN Foundation has facilitated deeper engagement with youths across the six geopolitical zones because of the critical role youths play in the country’s economic development. The Foundation is funded with one per cent of MTN Nigeria’s profit after tax, which places importance on education and technology development in Nigeria.
This year, 300 students were awarded the Science and Technology Scholarship. 60 students received the MTN Scholarship for Blind Students while the top 10 UTME candidates in 2021 were also awarded scholarships.
The Executive Secretary, Odunayo Sanya stated that the foundation focuses on two key areas aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – youth development and national priorities.
She said its interventions around youth development are tailored towards equipping the younger generation with the skills, tools, access, knowledge, and opportunities to be economically active citizens. “Some current projects under this include MTNF Scholarships for STEM and blind students, MTN-MUSON Scholars Programme, Arts and Culture Productions, MTN School Support programme, our Anti-Substance Abuse Programme (ASAP) and many more,” Sanya stated.
“We are also invested in areas we consider national priorities. In this regard, we embrace initiatives that promote community infrastructure, economic development, health and entrepreneurship,” she continued.
According to Sanya, MTNF has awarded scholarships valued at ₦3 billion to over 4,000 young Nigerians so far. She also claimed that upon graduation, each scholar takes part in the MTN Foundation ‘Skill Up Training’ to ensure they are well equipped to compete and add value. They are also exposed to other opportunities for training and certification from notable organisations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI).
“We are proud of the work we do through this initiative, guided by our unwavering belief in the transformative power of education in our nation. We are also excited about what lies ahead for our scholars and alumni,” she said.
Asides from scholarships, the Foundation has also invested in infrastructure for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEM) education. Through the MTNF Science and Technology Laboratory Project initiative, the Foundation has provided modern equipment for school laboratories.
At this year’s award ceremony in Lagos recently, the Commissioner for Education, Mrs Folashade Adefisayo, described the initiative as a step in the right direction in the pursuit of academic excellence for Nigerian students. Represented by the Director, Science and Technology, Lagos State Ministry of Education, Grace Akinboyewa, the commissioner called for more collaborations toward adding value to the education sector of the state and nation.
The Chief Marketing Officer, MTN Nigeria, Adia Sowho, urged the scholars to continue to take risks and strive for success irrespective of failures. She said that within failure, is a lesson that better prepares one for tomorrow.
Some of the awardees who received credit alerts at the venue, screamed in excitement, as they can now pursue their education without fear. Parents of the awardees who were also present at the award ceremony were thankful to the Foundation for alleviating their financial burden. One of the visually impaired recipients of the scholarship aptly captured the impact of the award, when he stated that his lack of sight is not a lack of vision.
The intervention by MTNF may not be enough, considering the growing youth population in the country, but it has been described as the way to go.
More organisations are therefore required to invest in scholarships and other human capital development initiatives to support the government and groom responsible Nigerian youths.