Theodora Ogharanduku is one of the beneficiaries of the Delta State First Class Scholarship Scheme. A 2008 graduate of Zoology from the Delta State University, Abraka, in this interview with Tony Manuaka, senior associate editor and Folashade Adebayo, senior writer, Ogharanduku says but for the state government, she would have had to save her salaries as a lecturer in her alma mater for 10 years to acquire a master’s degree at the University of London. Excerpts
What is your opinion about the scholarship scheme as a government policy in Delta State?
I am a beneficiary of the scholarship scheme. I utilised the first tranche of N5 million to pay for my master’s degree. The scheme covers master’s [degree] programme to PhD. I am yet to go for my PhD. I think that it is a laudable initiative by this administration. In the past, they had scholarship schemes but then, it was not based on merit. We used to hear of people going abroad under the Delta State Scholarship Scheme but we never saw them; we never knew how they applied. It was not transparent. And I think it was restricted to two applicants per local government. But in 2010, that was the first time they advertised. Under the new scheme, there is no limit to the number as long as you are qualified; that is you are from Delta State and your degree is not too old. In 2010 when I applied, they didn’t allow those whose degrees were obtained earlier than 2005. They felt that a lot of people would take advantage of it just to get money. As at the time the scheme was introduced, a lot of people were sceptical because they said anything that has to do with government, you never can tell. But funny enough, we didn’t know anybody and I know a lot of people who had never been to Delta State who benefited, yet they didn’t know anybody. We were about 36 in the first batch and virtually everybody came; we were screened and all that. But after the screening, it took some time before they eventually approved and disbursed the fund and a lot of people lost faith within that period but some of us still kept faith.
How much did you get?
Five million naira was disbursed to each beneficiary and I know a lot of people who went to do their master’s degree there. And I think that it gave a lot of us the opportunity to see the world because without the scholarship scheme, many of us wouldn’t have left the shores of Nigeria. It changed the outlook of many people because a lot of people came back with an enhanced outlook. They see things differently because I’ve had the opportunity of discussing with a lot of them. Even myself, you know when you go out there you will see what works, how it works and why it works. It motivated a lot of people. And for most of us, it was like a dream come true. I had always looked at the brochure of the University of London online; I had always goggled to look at the campus, so it was a dream come true. It also gave a lot of people who were not sure of what to do with their lives the opportunity to improve themselves because after graduation, a lot of people were sitting at home despite the fact that they had first class degrees. So for some of them, going abroad or going for postgraduate studies provided them the opportunity to get better jobs and some of them were retained by universities. It provided people the opportunity to further their careers.
In your own case were you retained by the university?
I was already working in the university as a lecturer before the scholarship came. I would have still done my postgraduate studies even without the scholarship. I may not have gone overseas because I may not have been able to afford it. I may have had to stay for a long period before …
Where did you do your master’s degree?
I did my master’s degree at the University of London, precisely at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Without the scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. I would have had to save my salaries for like 10 years.
Has that changed your perception of government?
You know that people believe that politicians are liars. But I am just a positive person even when a lot of people don’t have confidence and trust in government; and they have every reason not to trust government because over the years, government has disappointed the people but I appreciate this administration because like I said, previously, the process wasn’t transparent.
Do you have any idea on how the state government can improve on this scholarship programme?
I know a lot of people went through stress, financially, because they were excited when they got the money, so a lot of us didn’t plan; we didn’t have a big picture of what to expect. By the time tuition was paid, visa fees and air tickets were paid, we realised that we had no money. Visa fee is about N100,000 and ticket is about N300,000, that is close to half a million naira. So, a lot of people were stressed; but some of us who were already working in the university and we were on study leave, that was our saving grace because we had our salaries running. But a lot of people didn’t even have jobs and they were almost stranded. Because of that a lot of people are not going back to do their PhD. They are opting to do it here. But I think that one of the objectives of the scheme, which was to expose people, is being defeated because if a lot of people are saying I suffered when I was doing my master’s degree and I don’t want to suffer again; I will just rather do it at UNIBEN, (University of Benin). I think something is being lost. I’m not saying that our universities are not good enough; they are, but there is a difference when you go out there and you study among students that are from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds. You get to interact with academics from different parts of the world and when you come back here, the experience is totally different.
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‘I did my master’s degree at the University of London…Without the scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. I would have had to save my salaries for like 10 years’