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FCT Scholarship Board has given out 95,000 scholarships so far
Hajia Kagara, Director
September, 2021

Scholarship is one offer much sought after in education in the country. Many parents, especially the not well-to-do, crave the pleasant situation where the burden of paying for education of their children/wards is taken off them or borne by a benevolent organization.

Realizing this, many state governments established Scholarship Boards as part of government welfare programmes for the citizenry. Several firms, individuals and non-governmental bodies too. However, some government officials are reported to have, over the years, undertaken actions that negate the original principle behind establishing the Boards by offering scholarship mainly to children of the wealthy.

Abuja Digest Weekly team of Gloria Isa and Manbyen Nantip spoke to Director, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Scholarship Board, Hajia Zainab Ahmed Kagara, on the goings-on in the Board in the nation's capital; what the scholarship qualifications are; the sort of support received by government; the issue of old buses used by the Board, among other things.

Abuja Digest Weekly: There are many parents and students in schools in FCT that still do not know what the qualifications are for one to benefit from scholarship offered by your board. For their benefit, can you say what these qualifications are?
Hajia Kagara: Some of the qualifications that bring out the eligible students and purpose for our scholarship include, at the Basic and Post-Basic, we give 80 per cent to the indigenes of FCT and 20 per cent goes to the resident indigent pupils and students of FCT. That's one. At the tertiary level, that is, Polytechnic, College of Education, University, School of Nursing, Law School, we give 100 per cent of our scholarship to the indigenes of FCT.

Among the criteria is the possession and presentation of indigene certificate from the six Area Councils in FCT. That is number two. Number three, applicants in the tertiary must present admission letters, academic performance, credits in the core subjects (English and Mathematics) and any other relevant subjects.

They have to present birth certificate or declaration of age. They have to present their school ID because it is assumed they have gained admission. They have to present their admission letter. For the school ID, we observe that it's not all the schools that give ID cards, so at times we overlook that. But for the students in foreign institutions, they must present school ID card.

For the applicants in foreign institutions and Nigeria tertiary institutions, they also have to show or present evidence of payment of tuition fees. We don't just give scholarship for people to go and start schooling; they have to be in the school, especially those in the foreign tertiary institutions. They have to be in the school for us to give them assistance. Actually, we don't give full scholarship; what we give here is an assistance. That's why we call it scholarship scheme assistance.

Yes, we hope in the future when things become so good and our budget is improved, we'll be able to pay students full scholarship; but even with this presently, students and parents appreciate what we're doing. So, those are some of the qualifications for our scholarship. At the primary school level, we don't subject them to any examinations or any oral interview. No. We give them.

The Special Needs Students are usually given forms free; in 2021, we're happy that the FCTA Permanent Secretary has caused approval for the Board and the FCT Minister has given approval for us to give out these forms free to all applicants, Basic, Post-Basic, tertiary institutions in Nigeria and abroad. So, our forms this year are not for sale. We have printed it on top of the forms “not for sale”.

The forms are free, but, unlike before, they have to sit for a written examination as one of the qualifying criteria. Then, there is the oral interview. This interview is usually during screening; that one continues. So, we have the oral interview and written examination for applicants at the tertiary level. The primary and secondary schools (JSS and SSS) don't sit for any exams.

Abuja Digest Weekly: Scholarship scheme in many states is said to bypass the children of the needy and instead given to the rich who can afford any cost of education. What's the case in FCT?
Hajia Kagara: In FCT, it's different. I can tell you that since the establishment of the Scholarship Board, we have given about 95,000 scholarships to the pupils and students of FCT. So, that 95,000, looking at the figure, you cannot say all these children belong to the rich. Actually, our scholarship is for the indigent indigenes of FCT.

Most of the parents of the students, or the applicants, here are farmers. About 70 per cent of the children we give the scholarship, their parents are just farmers, only few are of working class parents. So, our scholarship is not for the rich and that is why we put that clause 'indigent indigenes of FCT'.

So, many children of the poor have benefitted and are still benefitting and it's one of our considerations. And from information which they give to us in their forms, we get to know who really needs our scholarship and these are the people we targeted.

Abuja Digest Weekly: The FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, and the FCT Administration generally are known to be passionate about education. Here, in your Board, are there any special actions that they have taken to bear out this assertion?
Hajia Kagara: Very many. Actually, I am happy to answer this question. The Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, has been so passionate about the scholarship for students of FCT. There is no time that we take our file for his approval that he returns it to us without the approval.

In fact, we are always proud to carry our files; he has always given us that approval. Yes. And we really appreciate him. Our Permanent Secretary also is so passionate. Actually, he was the initiator of the issuance of free application forms and immediately he suggested that to the Minister, the Minister gave his approval straightaway. So, you can see the passion. Through their efforts, even during the pandemic last year, we were still able to disburse scholarship to about 8593 students and pupils of FCT.

So, you can see that they are really passionate about the education of students and pupils of FCT. And the Board cannot say anything more than to thank the Honorable Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello; the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Olusade Adesola, for all he's putting us through to do the right thing and for always listening to us and helping us, assisting us in pursuing our programmes. Most of our programmes are geared towards assisting these children. And each time we go to seek for approvals either from the Permanent Secretary or the Minister, we don't come back lamenting. Instead we come back very happy.

Abuja Digest Weekly: You said you come back very happy each time. Sequel to this, can you recount your major accomplishments so far as Director of the Board? And, do you have challenges?
Hajia Kagara:First of all, let me talk about achievements. Actually, since I came on board last year 2020, May 2020 to be precise, I was able to disburse scholarship to about 8593 students and pupils of FCT. We were able to get approval for that and we did the disbursement in two batches for both the foreign students and tertiary students in Nigeria, Basic and Post-Basic pupils and students, students of Department of Mass Education, Special Needs education (that is, School for the Deaf, School for the Blind, School for the Handicapped) were all disbursed the scholarship.

Secondly, we were able to go and monitor, this year, those students we gave scholarship last year. We were able to go to the various institutions in Nigeria where they are studying. We went to monitor, to be sure, to see them physically, to ensure they are in school and to monitor their academic performances; this was successfully carried out in July. It is a great achievement.

This year, we have started issuing out forms about two weeks ago to applicants. And the turnout has been very great. By the first week of September, 2021, we commenced screening of the students at the six Area Councils; screening of those students that collected the forms and have returned them, having filled the forms. We are in the Area Councils to screen them, then conduct the written examination after the screening and the oral interview.

We were also doing the data capturing of the returned forms. So far, so good. We're in touch with the 17 chiefdoms of FCT, that is, the traditional rulers. Recently we had a stakeholders' meeting where the Permanent Secretary, FCTA, graced the occasion and we met the traditional rulers, some of them sent their representatives, some came themselves, the LEA (Local Education Authority) Secretaries, Directors of FCTA and Education Secretariat,

representatives of students' groups and many other stakeholders were at the meeting. And just like we promised to do partnership and collaboration with stakeholders, we took it upon ourselves to send the forms to the 17 chiefdoms. That is to show our respect, for them to give the forms to their wards and encourage their wards to come and pick the application forms. So that is what we're doing. And then there was this Embassy of Sao Tome and Principe that promised to give scholarship in cash to the indigenes of FCT. They sent this through the Office of the FCT Minister and it was minuted to us. We took it up. They needed about 100 students.

So, we went round the 17 chiefdoms and were able to get students in 100-level, that is what the Embassy wanted. And they wanted indigent students in 100-level in tertiary institutions. We were able to get the number they demanded. And right now, we're following up to see how far. So they're still on it. According to them, they will be in touch with each and every student, to be sure---which is good. We gave them the guarantee that they can go ahead. They have the students' phone numbers which the students submitted.

They collected their account numbers and they told us that that is what their country does and it is the first time FCT is benefitting and we're happy they remembered the FCT. So, it's ongoing. We also organized an in-house training for our staff this year in Computer Appreciation and Practice of Administration.

Again, we took our courtesy calls to some of the LEA Secretaries in order to have collaboration with them so as to strengthen the existing partnership with them too and, of course, they assured us of their 100 per cent cooperation and partnership. As a Director, I was able to visit the 17 chiefdoms soliciting for their cooperation and their blessings for our board to succeed and be able to carry out our services.

Now, challenges; of course, there is no success without challenges. The number one challenge is the provision of more funds to upgrade what we give to the students and pupils as scholarship, which we're hoping the Honorable Minister will kindly give us the approval so as to have enough funds as our scholarship grant in order to increase the fares we give to the students in tertiary in foreign institutions, in primary and secondary schools (JSS).

So, we need more funds for our scholarship programme so as to accommodate more students. Everywhere, we get a lot of turn-up of people who collect these forms, but because of the inadequate funds in our budgetary provision, we have had to cut down a lot to accommodate those that the budget can accommodate.

Secondly, we want to appeal to the Minister to consider some of these students that were beneficiaries who have graduated and have not secured employment yet and have nowhere to fall to. We have invested money in them. I am calling on the authority to please consider them after graduation to give them employment so that they can give back to their communities and society, so that what government has invested in them will not go in vain.

For that reason, we have created a kind of databank where we collate information on all the beneficiaries of scholarship who have graduated from schools and are still out there. We tell them to give us their results. Their data is captured in the databank, in case there is a job opportunity so that some of them can be taken and be given letters of employment.

Abuja Digest Weekly: We notice that your Board's buses are old and we also know that they are used for school shuttle at least five times a week and perhaps, several rounds daily. How much of a challenge is it to maintain them and what is being done on this matter?
Hajia Kagara: Yes. As it is, our scholarship is in Cash and Kind. And the shuttle buses you mentioned are also part of the scholarship we give. We use these buses to shuttle to seven routes in FCT conveying students and pupils without a kobo being asked on our part from the pupils and students.

We take them freely to the school and back from the school. So our buses go out during school days to convey the pupils and students from one route to the other.

The buses are very old; most of them were purchased long time ago. Their maintenance is becoming more and more difficult but we have to keep to our services and year in, year out, we always write this in our budget but we're yet to be lucky to get new buses. But if we could be given new buses, the sky will not only be our limit.

In this case, the pupils and students, we don't check whether they're indigent or indigene as every child from that route we see that is going to school, we pick them, take them to school, return them to that very place we picked them. We have been doing this for years. The pupils and students are aware. The parents are always appreciative of what we're doing.

We have been assisting them and they are sure that their children are being picked and that their children will be returned without any fuss. So, we have saved them from transportation headaches and they know they are in good hands. Because we're dealing with children---people's children---we ensure that our buses are well-maintained.

We have never had any case of accident; we have never been reported to anyone for any rough driving or misuse of our buses. No! We are always in check; we have a transport officer that goes round, without the drivers knowing, to supervise in different routes at random to check and see what they are doing. And we thank God Almighty there has never been any report of any wrongdoing as they know they're being supervised. We have seven buses---some are up to 10 years old or more---, maintaining them is not an easy task, but we thank God Almighty we have budgetary head for the maintenance of the buses and we use it judiciously.

Abuja Digest Weekly: The different groups you interact with will like to read your mind.
Hajia Kagara:We appreciate what the FCTA authorities are doing on scholarship and we promise that we shall continue to support the government and to do whatever it takes to maintain the good name and protect our integrity. We hope that our requests will always be considered and given approval as usual. I want to commend the Honorable Minister of FCT, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello; the Honourable Minister of State, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu; and our Permanent Secretary, Mr. Olusade Adesola.

I want to commend my own staff in the Board for their teamwork and efforts in seeing that we achieve our objectives. I want to commend Abuja Digest Weekly and other media houses that are helping the Board by creating public awareness on our activities and programmes. We have been doing series of radio, TV interviews. I want to appreciate all the media houses that have taken interest in Scholarship Board. We commend your efforts. I want to thank members of the public too for believing in us.

For the students, I want to advise them that efforts of government should not be in vain and they should always appreciate what they have because what they have today, somebody is there somewhere looking for how he can get it too. Students and pupils of FCT should appreciate that it is only in FCT that scholarship is given at Basic level; only recently I heard that one other state, maybe Imo or so, is also giving it at that level. Use what you are given as scholarship judiciously and they should please concentrate on their studies so as to make their parents proud and to always remember that they have a community they will come back and give back to.

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