The president says this is one of the ways to get out of the woodsArticle | August 22, 2012 – 1:56am | By Grace Joe

President Goodluck Jonathan has challenged state governments to initiate and sustain scholarship programmes that will produce academic giants and leaders who will drive Nigeria’s development for the future generations.

The president was speaking on Tuesday in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State during an interactive session with 100 secondary school beneficiaries of the Bayelsa Merit Scholarship Scheme which he initiated in 2006 while serving as the governor of the state.

The beneficiaries, who were selected from indigent families in the state, have just graduated from Bells College, Otta (30 students); Dowen Comprehensive Secondary School, Lagos (36); and Nigeria-Turkish College, Abuja (8).

Jonathan recalled how he was always bothered that the state had severally been denied chances in institutions of higher learning and prestigious job opportunities because it had very few qualified candidates.

This prompted him to buy into the idea of Sullivan Akachukwu, a then consultant with Shell Petroleum, to evolve the scholarship scheme. The president thanked Governor Seriake Dickson for reviving the scheme.

Jonathan said he did not know any of the beneficiaries as he was neither part of the selection process nor did he influence in any way those who got selected.

He implored Dickson to “warn members of your cabinet not to play any role in influencing those who will be selected. I did not know any of them”.

“We must come up with programmes that produce role models for the next generation,” he said.

Jonathan added that a similar programme has been initiated by the federal government to offer scholarship to first class academic staff of higher institutions in the country for further studies in and outside the country, as part of his administration’s efforts to ensure an all-round academic excellence.
“We are trying to produce a crop of Nigerians that will take us to the moon,” he said. “I am quite appreciative of Dickson, because this programme almost died and he is bringing it up again. I will tell Dickson that there will be pressure for you to put them here and there but as long as you want them for the best, select the best secondary schools and expose them.

This scheme gives them the opportunity to mix with people from all over the world. And that is why, for the special school we are building, we have said 75 per cent will be for Bayelsans and 25 per cent for the rest. So that thy can see students from all over the world schooling with them in Bayelsa State.”

Dickson, who has been named the Chief Education Officer of the state, thanked the president for showing an example in the education sector.

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