By TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA
Words failed seventeen-year-old Fehintola Okunubi last Thursday when reality dawned on her that her lifelong ambition to become a Biomedical Engineer was falling into place as she clutched a $40,000 scholarship to study in any Canadian university of her choice.
Born with an amniotic band, which led to the amputation of her leg, she had always aspired to surmount the odds, train to become a Biomedical Engineer and in the nearest future establish a centre where artificial limbs would be produced and people trained locally, so that with modern-day medical equipment, babies born with same condition would not have to go through her pains and lose their legs.
But then, it was a hope heading for the rocks as there was no university in Nigeria offering her dream course, while studying abroad was beyond her reach, as her parents made it clear they could not afford such.
Fehintola was about resigning to fate again when she stumbled on an advertisement calling for entries to participate in a Canadian scholarship by Luz Neema Foundation, a subsidiary of Comfort Zone Educational. Armed with a top drawer West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) result and resolute resolve, she was shortlisted for the final round of oral and written tests before emerging winner of the maiden edition.
Breaking into tears during the presentation of the award in Lagos, Fehintola said the scholarship, covering only tuition for the undergraduate programme, was godsent. “Everybody around me had
discouraged my choice because no university in the country was offering the course. I had even settled for what I could get here and hope to return to my dream course later in the future when pursuing a Masters degree. It is a dream come true,” she said.
Chairman of the event and Majority Leader of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Dr. Ajibayo Adeyeye, while congratulating the winner for again proving to the world that there is ability in disability, made a donation of $500 to Fehintola to augment her living expenses in Canada.
He said the problems facing the education sector calls for concerted effort from all stakeholders in the Nigerian project. “The reason why in Lagos State, it seems all our planning and strategies are failing is because other states are not doing what they are supposed to do and it is choking the available infrastructure. For instance, if we plan for a hundred pupils, we get a thousand accessing the facility. If we build schools to accommodate a thousand, 10,000 pupils would be registering for admission, which is why private efforts such as the Luz Neema initiative should be encouraged.”
Founder and administrator of the foundation, Mrs. Mobo Oresegun, said she is awarding the scholarship not because she does not have faith in the country’s educational institutions, but because their is a lapse which needs to be filled.
“Nigeria is blessed with extremely brilliant and dedicated students who are interested in pursuing a brighter future but many are handicapped by several socio-cultural and financial challenges. Furthermore, there are some courses, which are not currently available in Nigerian universities. People should be interested in environmental courses like weather forecasting, hydroscience, global warming as a way of planning for the future.
“We need to move in tandem with the industrialised world and equip our educational system beyond the saturated courses our universities presently offer. We, especially, would love to see Nigeria at the forefront of providing innovative ideas and not just a nation of importers alone. This is the gap Comfort Zone Educational is determined to bridge,” she said.
A member of the board of trustee, Mr. Femi Odugbemi, noted that Nigerians like to whine about the state of things in the country, “but a young Nigerian, Mobo, is doing alot to change the course of the country and enrich the future, one person at a time.”
Comfort Zone Educational is a consulting firm dedicated to recruiting, counselling and application processing for Nigerians to study in Canadian universities or colleges. Application for the second award has commenced and would last till September 30, 2012 with forms available online at http://www.luzneema.org.
According to the organisers, feedback from the first edition shows a number of secondary schools indicated interest in the scholarship scheme but its students were unable to participate due to unavailability of SSCE results. The foundation was requested to hold another award towards the end of the year to enable freshly graduated secondary school students the opportunity to participate.