The government of Yobe State has said that it has successfully screened 228 students from poor family backgrounds for a foreign scholarship in an Indian University.
The 228 students, according to a selection committee set up by the Yobe State Government, were picked after a meticulous selection process from across the 17 local areas government areas of the state.
However, the process of selecting the 228 students has been criticized by some residents of the state who accused the committee of using a controversial process to select the candidates.
Reacting to the screening exercise on social media, some residents of the state accused the committee of deploying favouritism and bias in picking those selected.
This allegation was, however, refuted by the committee.
The Chairman of the Foreign Scholarship Committee, Sherriff Almuhajir, told journalists in Damaturu on Monday that a total of 228 candidates were selected out of about 4000 that applied across the state.
Mr Almuhajir said his committee had to shortlist 500 of the applicants before arriving at the final 228 candidates that would be sent abroad to pursue various degree programmes.
The screened scholarship candidates are to study at the Glocal University in India.
The state governor, Mai-Mala Buni, last year announced that his administration has approved the sponsorship of over 700 students to study major degree courses abroad.
The governor in May last year declared a state of emergency on education and held a weeklong summit on education
Mr Almuhajir said all the successfully selected candidates would be pursuing degrees in Paramedics, Engineering and Technology, Agriculture and Management courses in the Indian university.
“The screening examination for the applicants was conducted electronically with emphasis on science courses,” he said.
“A total of 4,000 candidates were initially picked from the 17 local government areas to sit for the examination. Out of the number, 500 emerged and subsequently, the 228 who met our criteria of science courses emerged successful as successful candidates”.
He said the students are being sponsored to study science and medical courses that will be beneficial to the manpower deficits in the state workforce.
“Under paramedics, the students would be studying degree courses in Operation Theatre, Microbiology, Medical Laboratory Technology, Radiology, Renal Dialysis, Anaesthesia, Cardiac Care Technology, and Pharmacy, ” the Committee Chairman explained.
“Under engineering and technology, the students will study Petroleum Engineering, Electronic and Communication Engineering, Computer Science Engineering, Civil Engineering, Biotechnology, and Mechanical Engineering at the first-degree level.
“In agriculture, 19 candidates will study agriculture while two are for forestry,” Dr. Almuhaji said.
Allegations of Fraudulent Selection
A Facebook user, Babagana Kolo, made a post on January 11 at 10:23 PM alleging lopsided consideration at the local government ward levels.
“What a bias selection; Moyori one of the major Elector Wards in Yusufari Local government have not gotten its students included in (Governor) Mai Mala Bunu’s Scholarship,” he said.
‘”When I see the LGAs’ sharing formula of giving 12 slots to each LGA, what comes to my mind is the same formula will be applied for Ward level but the reverse is the case. I, therefore, challenge those involved in the selection process to quickly include Moyori in the list either by addition or subtraction since there are some wards that occupied more than 2 slots. It is obvious that Moyori is twice the size of Kajimaram and Maimalari by population. The Motori people are demanding for their slots.”
Another dissatisfied resident, Mohammed Habib, made two posts (one in Hausa and a translation in English) on his Facebook page expressing his discontent about the selection process for the foreign scholarship scheme.
“No transparency in Yobe foreign scholarship, ” he said. Candidates with 18 point marks are qualified while those with 22 are not qualified in the same local government, ” he lamented.
Abubakar Lawan, a parent, wept while commenting on a Facebook post that announced the selection of the final candidates for the foreign scholarship.
“It good, but my son has 5 (five)/distinction and 5 (five) credits all in sciences subjects but he was not given the offers 😭”
The Executive Secretary (ES) of the Yobe State Scholarship Board, Abubakar Kagu, who is also a member of the committee, denied alleged fraud in the selection process.
“I have seen one, two or three complaints about the selection exercise on the social media that there is no transparency in what we did in the selection process of the exercise, ” he said.
“A post indicated that some candidates in a local government got 28% per cent and they were not selected and another person in another local government got 18 per cent and he was selected and so on.”
The ES described authors of such negative comments as ignorant of what they did in the selection process.
“The truth is that from the beginning, we had set local government as a selection criterion but it became very obvious that such criteria will produce a lopsided selection because one family may end up having the entire slots in a local government because of their performance in the examination.
“Against that backdrop, we decided to add another criterion which is the ward level. This criterion gives the opportunity to spread and mitigate the opportunity of concentration as I have earlier explained.
“We adopted this method because if you allow it that way, it will not serve the governor’s vision and it won’t serve the people of the state well so we added the ward level as another criterion.
“By that, it means that even if many from one family have the highest marks in a local government, only one will be selected from the ward and we move to another ward.
“So a candidate maybe be scoring the lowest marks in another ward but he will be selected from that ward because he has no competition like the other wards that many candidates have high marks even more than the other candidate with the lowest marks but in his ward, he is the first.
“Another issue is that some wards have more than three and others don’t have candidates at all. In those situations, we now go to the local governments and see which person has the next highest marks who was disqualified based on the award criteria.
“We also have a threshold marks of that if you don’t cross you cannot be selected because you will definitely not succeed when you go abroad to stud.”
“There were also wards that didn’t produce candidates at all. In such a situation, we go back and select those that were disqualified on a ward basis to fill up the gaps,” the official explained.
Civil Society wades in
Following the controversy surrounding the foreign scholarship selection process, the leadership of some civil society organizations in Yobe State sought a meeting with the chairman and members of the committee for clarifications.
In a statement signed and issued by an official of the Network of Yobe State Civil Society Organizations, Muhammad Kucici, the group said they “met with the Chairman and members of the Committee on 11/01/202 on the State Scholarship Board Damaturu, before they commenced the screening exercise of the 228 selected candidates.”
After the meeting, the network of CSOs declared that “The process is to a large extent transparent” and that “in the whole exercise equity and fairness were chosen over merit.”
They, however, pointed out that the crux of the controversy was that merit was placed under political convenience in some of the selection of candidates.
“The major concern here is that a 2nd or 3rd best candidate in one political ward have high points than the best candidate in another ward and that is the main genesis of the public outcry.”