A few years ago, when Bilikisu Abdulrahman was a pupil of Olowora Primary School, Isheri, Lagos, a former pupil of the school, Blessing Ugbebor, visited.
Blessing visited her former school as a pupil of Mind Builders High School. She got a scholarship to the school in 2018 when Mind Builders School renovated Olowora Primary School as part of its 20th anniversary celebration and she impressed guests with her delivery of a vote of thanks at the event.
Blessing who excelled in the entrance examination, shared how hard work earned her scholarship to the elite school and encouraged pupils of her former school to be studious.
That visit made a strong impression on Bilikisu, who was then in Primary Five, and she started dreaming of joining Blessing at Mind Builders after her primary education.
But to do so, she had to win a scholarship as her mother, Mrs. Khadija Abdulrahman, a low-income nanny, was raising her four girls alone after being abandoned by their father.
“The first day Blessing walked into our school to tell us about Mind Builders, that was when I said I would also try to get this scholarship because I really like the way she talked about the school. I said I will work hard and try to get to the school.
“I read hard, and my common entrance exam I made sure that I passed. I read all night and when the entrance exam came I wrote it; and after that I prayed I get the scholarship.,” said Bilikisu, now 11 years old.
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After writing the scholarship examination and not hearing from Mind Builders, Bilikisu’s mother, persuaded her to begin registration at the public junior secondary school closest to their home.
Bilikisu was heartbroken. But just a day later, her mother got a call that she had been given a scholarship to attend Mind Builders.
“Some days to resumption I went to her (Bilikisu’s) bed and tapped her leg and said ‘Biliki, I don’t have money to send you to Mind Builders so let us start our registration now (at the public school)’.
“She was sad until we came back from the school. But when we got home that day her aunty (teacher) called me, ‘Biliki is going to Mind Builders tomorrow’. She was just jumping, happy. The following day was Friday September 10. We were at the school. She was registered and everything was given to her; even the uniform.
“Till I got home I was just praising God and singing. I wished for it but did not think it was possible because she is a Muslim and she is poor. It just by the grace of God,” she said.
The scholarship which covers her tuition, books, activities, transportation, is worth N1,063,125 yearly. The only thing she was required to pay for was her school uniforms.
Principal of Mind Builders High School, Mrs. Oluwafunmilayo Olatunbode said Bilikisu scored highest among indigent pupils that took the entrance examination. But her score, 70, was 10 marks short of the scholarship benchmark.
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However she said providence was on Bilikisu’s side and the school’s governing board, chaired by Mr. Tunbosun Falore decided to offer her the scholarship with the proviso that she must reach the 80 percentile to maintain it throughout her secondary education.
Olatunbode said: “At the end of the exams, Bilikisu actually scored 70 percent, which actually is not the cut off for the scholarship. The scholarship mark is 80 per cent and our normal candidates could afford the fees. We already had like four candidates who scored 80 and above. But the scholarship scheme is not meant for the candidates who could pay, but for learners whose parents could not really afford it.
“We now said it will mean that we don’t have any scholarship candidate for this 2021/2022 session. But the Chairman insisted. And it was based on that philanthropic mind of assisting the needy that he said, ‘okay, give it to the child that scored 70. But as soon as she gets here, call the mother; speak with her to encourage her daughter to improve on her academic performance.
“The rule is that, once you come in as a scholarship student, you should be able to maintain your 80 percent. Once you retain that, you get your scholarship till you finish your secondary education.”
Mrs. Olatunbode said Bilikisu had already improved and achieved over 80 percent last term.
While Bilikisu was the only indigent pupil to benefit from the scholarship this session, Mrs. Olatunbode said the school was willing to offer more. She however lamented the lack of interest by public schools in Ikeja and Magodo environs to allow their primary six pupils participate in the scholarship examination. Only two pupils from Olowora Primary School took the scholarship entrance examination.
“There is one where we actually visited; we wrote a letter that they should bring their pupils to participate in the examination. They told us that except we get a letter from the ministry of education authorizing them to allow their children write the exam that they would not present their pupils. It is a volunteering thing; it is not a compulsion,” she said.
ASUU: Ex-minister faults state varsities, protests rock South-West, Edo
The immediate past Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, has faulted lecturers of state universities who are participating in the going strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
While saying state universities have no business in the ongoing strike, Nwajiuba, who resigned last week due to his presidential ambition, explained that most ASUU’s demands centre on challenges being faced by federal universities.
He spoke in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday just as university students in the South West protested against the ongoing strike in Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Edo States.
The PUNCH had reported that ASUU, on February 14, 2022 announced the commencement of a nationwide strike which involved all its chapters across the country, including those in state universities.
While Kaduna State University had announced that it was opting out of the strike, some other state universities such as Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma; Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho; and Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, among others insisted that they would not call off the strike.
Nwajiuba, however, encouraged ASUU members to shelve the strike.
He said, “State universities have no business with the ASUU strike. The demands that were laid down contained issues relating to federal universities and their employer, which is the Federal Government.
“For instance, ASUU talked about the introduction of University Transparency and Accountability Solution for the payment of salaries of federal lecturers. Why are state universities engaged in a struggle between the Federal Government and lecturers of federal universities? It is the state government that pays state universities, so why the need for the strike?
“We are optimistic that the strike will be called off soon. They agreed to meet with the government and that is a good step. I have always been a firm believer that you do not have to go on strike before your demands are met.”
Students of different universities in Ondo State on Monday staged a protest to register their displeasure over the prolonged strike.
The protesting students blocked the Ilesha-Akure Expressway in Akure, chanting different solidarity songs.
They wielded placards with different inscriptions such as ‘ End ASUU strike,’ ‘Save our future,’ and FG, we’ve had enough,’ among others.
The protesters included students of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko; Olusegun Agagu University of Technology, Okitipupa; and the Federal University of Technology, Akure.
The protest caused traffic gridlock on the highway with many travellers and motorists stranded while some motorists had to take alternative routes to their destinations.
Speaking on the protest, the Vice Chairman, National Association of University Students, Ondo Chapter, Shittu Afolarin, stated that the move became imperative after it was discovered that the Federal Government is not concerned about the plight of students.
In Osun State, protest by some students of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife organised by Great Ife Concerned Students in collaboration with Fund Education Coalition against strike, resumed on Monday as the protesters blocked some major roads in the state too.
The protesters had initially blocked Ife-Ede Road, and later moved to Ipetumodu and blocked Ife-Ibadan, Ilesa-Akure road in front of Oduduwa University, thereby preventing vehicular movement.
Speaking with The PUNCH, the leader of the protesters, Omowumi Abraham, popularly known as Ewatee, said a vehicle conveying two soldiers heading towards Gbongan-Ibadan end from Ipetumodu, had forced it way through their barricade.
She said two other vehicles also conveying soldiers heading towards same direction were however prevented from going through and were forced to make a detour.
Students in Ogun State also on Monday blocked the Sagamu-Benin Expressway in protest against the ongoing strike.
The joint protest had in attendance students from OOU, Ago-Iwoye; Tai Solarin University of Education, Science and Technology, Ijagun and Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the students stormed the TASUED axis and blocked the expressway, leaving many motorists stranded and travellers trapped.
Speaking at the protest ground, the Chairman, National Association of Nigerian Students in the state, Damilola Simeon, appealed to the Federal Government to respond urgently to the yearnings of ASUU.
The President, Student Union Government of TASUED, Don Ayomide, also said the protest was necessary to let both the Federal Government and ASUU be aware of the plight of Nigerian students.
Reacting to the students’ protest, ASUU Chairman, FUNAAB, , Dr Gbenga Adeleye, told NAN that the students had a right to quality education, saying that they were not happy with the ongoing strike.
In Edo State, students of the University of Benin on Monday shut down the Federal Secretariat in Benin in continuation of their protest over the strike.
The students stormed the Aduwawa area where the office is situated and told the workers that they could take the day off as it was impossible for them to carry out their duties, while students continue to suffer over the strike.
The students said they have resolved to shut Federal Government offices in the state to press home their demand for the resolution of the crisis
President of the UNIBEN Student Union Government, Foster Amadin, said the government has not shown seriousness over the resolution, wondering for how long the students would stay at home doing nothing.
No agreement with FG, strike not ending soon – ASUU, SSANU, NASU
The Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Joint Action Committee of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities have said the Federal Government did not reach a strong agreement with them that can lead to calling off the industrial actions.
All the university unions in the country are presently on strike.
ASUU started its strike on February 14, 2022 and JAC commenced its own on April 14, 2022.
The unions embarked on industrial actions while demanding improved welfare packages, better working conditions and implementation of various labour agreements signed with the Federal Government between 2009 and 2020.
The national leaders of ASUU and JAC of SSANU and NASU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke and Mr Mohammed Ibrahim, respectively told our correspondent that the Federal Government and all stakeholders in the education sector and religious leaders had a meeting with the four unions but no strong agreements were reached.
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The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, was quoted in a report at the weekend as saying, “We had a cordial and fruitful discussion; we looked at the issues dispassionately and reached some agreements, to the satisfaction of everybody in attendance.”
But Osodeke said Ngige’s claim after the meeting that the unions would call off the ongoing strike this week was a political statement.
He said, “We are not aware that we are calling off the strike. We met but there was nothing concrete between us and the government. Like we said before, we do not want promises, we want actions, if they show action and implement all the issues, we will go to our members, but knowing their antecedents, we know they will not do anything.
“They promised us since December 2020 and it is going to a year and a half, they have not done anything. We are waiting for them.
“As far as we are concerned, only when they sign our agreements, accept UTAS, release EAA and revitalisation funds will we call the strikes off.”
Ibrahim added that the major progress he could point at during the meeting was the ordering of the National Information Technology Development Agency, by the presidency who was represented by the Chief of Staff to the President and Chairman of the meeting, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, to subject the three payment solutions; Integrated Payroll and Personnel information system , University Transparency and Accountability Solution and University Peculiar Payroll Payment System, to integrity test and submit in three weeks.
“We are not talking about calling off strike now,” he said.
NYSC, varsities to review timetable after strike
Meanwhile, the National Youth Service Corps, Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board, and universities will meet later to harmonise timetable and rollout calendar for the mobilisation of graduates for the mandatory National Youth Service and 2022 admissions following the disruption in the academic calendar as a result of the ongoing industrial actions, The PUNCH has learnt.
The Secretary-General of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, Prof Yakubu Ochefu, disclosed this in an interview with The PUNCH.
He said the heads of JAMB, NYSC and universities would meet to ensure synchronisation of timetables once the strike is called off.
Ochefu said, “If we recall, in 2020, when we had a similar situation, all the parties adjusted their rollout calendars.
“NYSC, JAMB, and the Universities will work together to synchronise their timetables.
“Their leaders will surely meet to review the timelines immediately after the strike is called off.”
Also, the Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies, Ilorin, Kwara State, has said that it has started mediating in the dispute between ASUU and the Federal Government.
The Director-General of MINILS, Issa Aremu, revealed this in Ilorin while responding to questions on the strike.
“ASUU issues with the Federal Government are labour issues which are technical; the ministers could not resolve them because they lack skills to meditate on the industrial dispute. “There are two issues; dispute of rights and dispute of interest. While ASUU is on a course on the dispute of rights, it is wrong for it to go on strike on the dispute of interest which includes the system of salary payment,” he said.
Aremu, who described the shutting down of universities as worrisome, said, “We are meeting with stakeholders in the education sector, including ASUU, government, students, and parents to ensure that schools are opened. Nigeria cannot meet the development agenda if it continues with the incessant strike by workers.”
He advised workers to always exhaust social dialogue to resolve issues, warning that they should not use strike as a weapon to fight for their rights.
Also, the National Universities Commission has blamed the delay in the take off of projects on the delay in disbursement of funds by the Central Bank of Nigeria, the industrial actions by university-based unions and the revised budget system in 2022.
The NUC Coordinator, Special Projects, Dr. Joshua Atah, disclosed this while giving an update on the work plan of the Federal Government’s Sustainable Procurement Environmental and Social Standards Enhancement project.
Attah, in the NUC’s bulletin made available to The PUNCH on Sunday in Abuja, was quoted as saying that the commission is engaging with stakeholders to ensure smooth running of the project.
BREAKING: JAMB releases 2022 UTME results
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) says it has released the results of the 2022 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).
The examination body, in a statement on Saturday and signed by the head of its public affairs and protocol unit, Fabian Benjamin, however, noted the results were not yet uploaded on its website but could be obtained by the candidates by sending “UTMERESULT to 55019.”
JAMB said only the number used by the candidates to register for the examination would be eligible for sending such codes.
The Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) is the entrance examination for candidates seeking admission into Nigeria’s tertiary institutions including universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and monotechnics.
The statement read in part, “To check the 2022 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) result, all a candidate needs to do is to simply send UTMERESULT to 55019 using the same phone number that he/she had used for registration and the result would be returned as a text message. This is the only process of checking the 2022 UTME results for now as the Board has not uploaded it on its website for obvious reasons.
“In addition, candidates are forewarned that they would, as usual, receive all kinds of messages from desperate fraudsters on how to check their results different from the aforementioned one. Hence, the Board urges all candidates to ignore all such messages on how to check their 2022 UTME results as they are all products of deceit aimed at misleading them.”
JAMB also said in line with its desire to adhere to the ease of doing business protocol of the government, it “emplaced this user-friendly and simplified process of checking UTME results.”
“Furthermore, this simplified process would also serve to preclude the unconscionable exploitation of candidates by shylock business centres and cybercafes which often take advantage of hapless candidates.”
This year’s UTME was conducted in 750 computer-based centres nationwide and held between Friday, May 6, and Friday 13, 2022.
According to the examination body, more than 1.7 million candidates, including 383 blind candidates, took part in the examinations.
There were, however, reported cases of minor technical hitches recorded in some centres nationwide including failure of biometric capturing machines, computer malfunctions and incomplete questions.
But the examination body is yet to officially acknowledge these challenges, especially the incomplete questions, and has not responded to inquiries by parents and candidates on what to expect as remedies to the issues.
There were, however, instances where candidates were asked to return home by the examination officials with a pledge that they would be rescheduled for the examination.
It could not be immediately ascertained if the affected candidates had been rescheduled or examinations conducted.
However, due to challenges of industrial actions by workers of these institutions and the coronavirus-induced break, most public tertiary institutions have backlogs of candidates yet to be officially admitted with the results of the UTME conducted in 2021.
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