The wealth of any nation lies in the number of educated population it has, the Russian nation couldn’t have thought it better when it arranged, through a bilateral relation, to send not less than 80 Nigerian undergraduates to study various courses in Russia.
Our Reporter, A’isha Biola Raji however took a look into the send-off, orientation and briefing event that took place penultimate week and the reaction of some of the beneficiaries especially a well laid down account of a dedicated mother, Hajiya Zainab Isa Mahmud Abubakar...
The scholarship was awarded under the Bilateral Education Agreement Programme between Nigeria and Russia. Government of Nigeria had expressed its gratitude to the Russian Federation and to other development partners for their immense contributions towards training young Nigerians thereby assisting in the developmental needs of the country.
At the send-off party, The Nigerian government gave kudos to the Russian Federation for awarding scholarship to 80 Nigerians to study at various universities in Russia for the 2014/2015 academic session.
The Minister of State for Education, Prof. Viola Onwuliri during the Briefing exercise said, “Nigeria on her own part has made reciprocal scholarship offers to some countries like China, Cuba, Romania and Sierra Leone and much more because there are other exchange programmes involving Nigerian students and international students.
“When I led the Nigerian team for the United Nations election for the Security Council’s seat, out of the 191 votes cast, we got 186 to clinch our seat where we occupy today at the United Nation Security Council.
“If we didn’t have this number of friends, we wouldn’t have won that election. So this is part of also deepening the already existing relationship. “So I heartily congratulate all the awardees who got this scholarship at this time. I also wish to remind you all that you are our best and you must also come back as our best to put in the best of services to Nigeria and to young Nigerians.
Therefore, nothing but the best academic, moral and social behaviour is expected from all of you.”
According to her, more than half of the scholarships offered Nigeria by the countries it signed bilateral education agreements with are awarded by Russia.
She explained that the students were not being sent out because there were no tertiary institutions in Nigeria but to cement the relationship between Nigeria and Russia.
The minister, therefore, charged the awardees to obey the law of their host country, cautioning them against soiling the relationship between the two countries.
The Russian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Nikolay Udovichenko, urged the awardees to study hard while in Russia, saying that they could achieve a lot after gaining education in Russia.
Ambassador Udovichenko said, “After gaining education in Russia, you can achieve a lot here in Nigeria and for Nigeria. I think that studying in Russia is a happy ticket for you into future but above the luck, there is no doubt, you have talent because you have succeeded the very tough selection.
Ambassador Udovichenko also said that Russians were not only friendly or peace-loving but that Russia was one of the few countries that had power to conduct their independent policies and confront any challenge or difficulty.
“I am sure that you will see that our nations can cope with every difficulty, can cope with every challenge including terrorism challenges, including sanctions imposed by other nations.”
The ambassador said Russia had consistently been awarding scholarships to Nigeria students since 1973 without fail. The 80 scholarships offered by Russia comprises of 56 undergraduates, 17 masters and seven in Doctors of Philosophy (Ph.Ds).
Some of the beneficiaries of the scholarship programme thanked the Nigerian and Russian governments for the opportunity provided them through the bilateral education agreement programme. They also promised to work hard and be of good conduct while in Russia so as to be a good ambassador of Nigeria.
It is however worthy of emulation; the dedication of a mother; how she would be engrossed in the success of her children. The success story of the beneficiaries, Abdulhamid Mahmud Abubakar is one, that should be shared with his mother Hajiya Zainab Isa Mahmud Abubakar – she narrated the story of her son’s success while not forgetting also the strive by her daughter to acquire Russian scholarship award which proved abortive but went well for her son.
Her story goes thus: “I thank Allah almighty for making my dream come through. I have a daughter who is a senior sister to this Abdulmahid who is travelling today. She was selected for this particular federal scholarship. Unfortunately, her WAEC result was not ready, her father travelled to Lagos to get the WAEC result, by the time he came back, they say they have submitted their forms to the embassy and their passport. So there is nothing we could do.
“The following year, we applied but she was not picked so when it was time for the junior brother; who finished from Turkish international college (Olympian class) and his result was superb, yes because he made 8 As (distinctions); he made A+ in his Chemistry. He was a Chemistry student. Even the Turkish school wanted to retain him but he insists that he must continue his education.
“One day, he met me and said mummy, I want to become a doctor, I said wow! If that is your wish, I don’t want to stop you; if that is what you choose, then fine. He then applied for the federal scholarship board, sat for the examination, they were over 200 that applied for medicine and he came out 11th position. He was shortlisted. We submitted everything. They asked us to bring his passport and he was picked so I think it is God’s help.
“While waiting, we got form for University of Ilorin for him, he went for the post UME and he scored 90 per cent. He was given medicine as well. We filled in the form, got their acceptance letter. I asked him to resume. In fact he commenced lecture.
“Last year when he was 16 year old, he got admission from two other countries in which the admission letters were sent by courier; one in Tempo University California U.S.A, and another in Howard University also in U.S but the father declined saying he didn’t want him to travel that far alone. His reason is based on the fact that, most children especially at such young engage fall into peer group pressure and deviate from the original plan of travelling abroad.
“The second admission was even in form of scholarship; they were asked to pay N4 million with the school offsetting the remaining N9 million and this is the third one. The reason the father agreed to this one is because it is based on a bilateral agreement between Russia and Nigeria. “Yearly, they will send Nigerian staff to go and supervise the students. How are they faring, how are they coping; if any student misbehave, they will quickly depot him back to Nigeria. This is the reason he accepted the scholarship. With the knowledge of the Quran, and the Sunnah of the Prophet (SWA), we hope and pray that Abdulhamid will be protected. Only last two weeks, we got a call that he has been picked for medicine in Russia.
“We called him and asked which one would he prefer; medicine in University of Ilorin or medicine in Russia? He said mummy let me explore, let me go and see other countries apart from Nigeria. We never had to lobby at all, he was even given admission in Nile University; they want him to become a teacher but he walked up to me and said he wants to become a doctor
“Parents should motivate their children; let them have their heart desire; if they walk up to you and say they want to become teachers, let them be! If that is their decision, all you need to do is pray for them and wish them well. I told him that if he wants to become a doctor, he should work hard. We didn’t have to call anybody or lobby since he made his papers.
“For the sake of other parents that want same for their children, everything about this scholarship was on the net, we browsed, and we got all information on their website. Even this year, they gave the numbers of As (distinctions) a student needs before he can apply; if you don’t have the number of As you are disqualified, you don’t need to go into the next stage. It is stage by stage, stage one they tell you if you have five As, you can apply. If you don’t have you are disqualified immediately. When you pass this stage, they now begin to ask which school you finished from and so on. Then they will fix date for the examination. They only have four centres in the whole of Nigeria; Lagos, Minna, Ilorin and Zamfara.
“You have to go to one of the centres to write the examination; if you are from Kogi, you have to go to the North-Central. They are zoned. My son came out eleventh on the list. It is however not enough to say your child is travelling to study; you have to follow it up with prayers that they come back successful” she informed.
The beneficiary, Abdulhamid Mahmud Abubakar however said his choice of studying to becoming a “Brain Surgeon” is to serve Humanity thereby improving on a sector of the Nigerian economy.
He said, “I became inspired from an incident that occurred; a family friend lost his life as a result of needing a brain surgery; I learnt there are few brain surgeons in Nigeria. I imagined if I had been around, I would have made a difference in such instance.”
On what it feels like to be eleventh on the list, Abdulhamid has this to say: “I feel great that in the whole of the country, I am being recognised.”
Knowing the type of human personality that should aspire to go for a profession like medicine, especially becoming a brain surgeon, Abdulhamid is calm, cool and reserved. He is a teenager with inner kindness that simmers to the surface. “I think being an introvert would not be good for my profession, so I have always been calm,” he said.
Hoping to bring all the wealth of brain knowledge to Nigeria, Abdulhamid said his expectation about Russia had always been high and he hopes the University would meet up to his expectation. “I hope the University would shape me into one of the best brain surgeons in the world,” he said.
Also an aspiring Software Engineer, a former student of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, is unperturbed by having to move to a cold region like Russia, Zeliha said she wants to be independent hence her excitement. She said, “I have always been taken care of by my parents, this is an opportunity for me, to be on my own and see how it works.
I have been told that Russia is very cold, but despite my stature, I believe I will be able to manage. I am excited.”
On the choice of her study; “Software Engineering” she said she had always had passion for computers. “I have always wanted to write programs and the fact that, there are very few women in Engineering,” she pointed.
On her journey to getting shortlisted, her story was not far from Hajiya Zainab’s as she had also applied through internet “The application had been in stages and I merited it with my credentials and Exams.”
Zeliha will study for five years after which she will go for her masters and hopefully become Nigeria Bill Gates. Some of the students were happy that they are going to study in University system that is not prevailed by strike.
According to Ogundipe Adebimpe whose expectation is high, she said, “I want to be educated in a University where I can make plans that will go with the number of years slated for my study.”
An Economist by aspiration, she wants to be able to own a company one day, eve as a student in Russia. She said, “I want to understand the money market and how best to invest it.” Hoping to be able to cope with the cold, she said adaptation would be her watchword.
Job Shineng Gotang from Plateau said his long time dream has finally come through. According to Gotang, the scholarship will go a long way to move the country forward in terms of human resources hence economic development.
In his words, “This will stabilise Nigeria in future, because we are going to study different courses. As an aspiring Geologist, I hope to be able to tap into the various mineral resources found abundant in Nigeria.”