X-Raying Senator Bassey Albert’s Educational Empowerment Initiatives
According to a renowned humanitarian and United Nations Assistant Director of Education, Stefania Giannini, Education is the bedrock of a just society in the post-COVID world.
In an era of limited opportunities coupled with economic and social imbalance, accessing funding for education is a vital concern that has discouraged many from advancing their quest for educational inclination.
It takes extraordinary passion, providing a platform for others to access education for societal growth. That has been the fulcrum that motivated the Senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East in the National Assembly, Obong Bassey Albert (OBA), to capture education as an integral part of his human capital development agenda. This article will attempt to analyze the impact of the several educational empowerment programs that the Federal Lawmaker has instituted for his constituents and beyond.
First Phase of Scholarship for Undergraduates – 2016
At the instance of numerous requests from students of Akwa Ibom North-East (Uyo Senatorial District) extraction, as of November 2015, Senator Bassey Albert assembled a team of experts to conceptualize a sustainable scholarship scheme devoid of political and other forms of inference for his constituents.
No fewer than three thousand applications (3,000) were received, and a qualifying examination was administered to more than a thousand that met the requirements of studentship validation and academic progression. The examination held at the Government Technical College, Ewet Offot – Uyo, on May 28th, 2016, saw eighty-one (81) beneficiaries emerged from what was adjudged by participants as a free and credible process. This number was later increased to one hundred and forty (140) when the benefactor advised that candidates who scored between 55%, and the established benchmark of 60%, should also be considered.
Asides from taking full responsibility for the tuition fees of the beneficiaries, the scholars, majorly from the University of Uyo and Akwa Ibom State University, were also placed on a semester stipend of ten thousand nairas (N10,000) to help them with upkeep. A recent appraisal of the scheme indicates that 75 out of the beneficiaries had graduated at the end of the 2017/2018 academic session,39 others joined by the end of the 2018/2019 session, 17 graduated in the last academic year,2019/2020, while the remaining 9 are expected to complete their programs in this current session, 2020/2021.
Between 2016 and 2019, the scheme has produced five (5) first-class graduates, with Ememobong Akpanekpo, an indigene of Uyo Local Government Area, and Wisdom Ibokette from Etinan leading the line. Ememobong and Wisdom were students of the Department of Computer Engineering and Civil Engineering at the University of Uyo. Forty-two (42) of the graduates within the years in the review were students from Engineering based disciplines, twenty-two (22) from Clinical Science, and thirteen (13) others studied Pharmacy.
Second Phase of Scholarship for Undergraduates – 2019
In line with the increasing number of requests received by his constituency office, and the need to replace those delisted from the scheme after graduation, Senator Albert had, in May 2019, mandated the management committee to initiate the second phase of the program. Most of the concerns gathered from his constituency office were not from his constituents but rather undergraduates from sister Senatorial Districts (Uyo and Ikot Ekpene), who collectively asked for similar opportunities. These yearnings informed the decision of Senator Albert to ask that 60% of the beneficiaries be from his primary constituency (Uyo Senatorial District) and 40% shared between Ikot Ekpene and Eket Senatorial Districts.
No fewer than five thousand (5,000) applications were received, with 1150 shortlisted for the qualifying examination based on studentship validation and academic progress as indices for section. The examination held at the Community Secondary School, Aka Offot saw two hundred and Forty-one (241) candidates skip past the 60% benchmark. Fifty-seven (57) of them were students of Clinical Science, eighty-four (84) in Engineering disciplines, thirty-three (33) studying Pharmacy, and the remaining sixty-seven (67), including four (4) physically challenged who were granted a waiver, in other related courses.
By projection, about 35% of the beneficiaries would graduate by the end of the current academic session, the remaining one hundred and fifty-seven (157) will complete their respective programs between 2021 and 2024. According to a recent survey of their academic progression, thirty-one (31) of the scholars are within the first-class range, while more than 60% are in the second-class upper division. The above is a testament to the fact that the scholars have justified their inclusion in the scheme.
Asides from the established three hundred and eight one (381) scholarship beneficiaries, several others have also benefitted from other interventions. Senator Albert’s constituency office receives several requests for educational support daily. Preliminary data available suggest that more than Two Hundred (200) similar requests have been verified and attended to in the past six years. During his empowerment program in April – 2018, Four hundred and fifty (450) undergraduates got educational support of (N40,000) forty thousand naira (each) to take care of pressing needs.
In the area of training and capacity building, fifteen (15) indigenes of the State have been supported to proceed on Post Graduate Studies within and outside the country. Worthy of mention is the fact that most of the beneficiaries are in academia. Example of such: Dr. Ekom Okpo, a Lecturer who was at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, for a bench-work in 2018. Similarly, Victor Etim, Udeme Ibanga, Aniekan Asanga, and Asuquo Jackson are all at advanced stages of their respective Doctorate programs in the UK. Also, the likes of Ukponoabasi Antia, Ashong Ashong, Aniefiok Umoh, and a host of others have either completed or are on the verge of completing their Masters’ degree programs.
Impact and Projections
It is worth mentioning that the undergraduate scholarship scheme gulps about eighteen million (N18m) annually. For Senator Albert, counting the cost is least desirable as performance indicators such as accessibility to education, cohesive academic progression, and optimizing opportunities are noticeable footprints of the scholarship program, which has written his name in the sands of time.
These and more may have informed the decision of the Governing Councils of the Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Ikot Osura, and the Akwa Ibom State College of Education, Afaha Nsit to confer on him awards for Educational Philanthropy in May 2019 and July 2019, respectively. Senator Albert recently was also honored by the Student Union Government of the University of Uyo and the National Association of Akwa Ibom State Students for his contributions to the development of the student community. In 2017, Senator Albert received an award of excellence for his impact in the educational sector by the Patriotic Service Platform, Lagos.
Like Oliver Tweest, I may wish to delve into the minds of Akwa Ibom students to join faith with them, requesting a third phase of the scheme by the end of the 2020/2021 academic session to enable more sons and daughters of the state key into this laudable initiative. However, this is subject to his prerogative. Akwa Ibomites should see this gesture by Senator Albert as a sense of responsibility and the need to look at his antecedent for a higher calling.