The students are from the Federal University of Otuoke.
Determined to secure the future of the Niger Delta region, the Ijaw Foundation in Diaspora has announced a scholarship scheme that would sponsor about 50 indigenes of the area in tertiary institutions annually.
The chairman of the group, who is also the President, BFIGroup Corporation, Reuben Jaja, said the scheme took off this year with the award of scholarships valued at over N4.7million to 50 undergraduates of the Federal University of Otuoke (OTU) in Bayelsa State for the 2013-2014 academic session.
Beneficiaries from the scholarship, who are second year science students of the institution, are 17 females and 33 males from Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta states, with 34 of them studying Human/Social Sciences, while 16 others are in the Sciences department.
Further details of the award showed that 34 of the awardees are Bayelsa State indigenes, while nine are from Delta and seven from Rivers State. About 16 of the awardees are from the Faculty of Science studying Biochemistry (2), Computer Science (6), Microbiology (5) and Physics (3), while 34 others from the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences are studying Accounting (10), Economics (7), Political Science (9), and Sociology (8).
Mr. Jaja said the decision to institute the scholarship scheme was part of the vision of the Foundation to focus on education of the youth of the region and to empower the Ijaw people. He clarified that OTU was chosen as the first benefitting institution because it is the first Federal University to be located in the heartland of the Ijaw nation.
Mr. Jaja, who holds the traditional title of Ama-Opu-Senibo of Opobo Kingdom, expressed the belief that the programme would ensure that Ijaw students were not denied opportunity to be educated as a result of lack of funding.
He said the inspiration for the Foundation to establish the scholarship was similar to what gave him the impetus to acquire the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON, Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State; that is- apart from creating the opportunity to contribute to the economic development of the region- preparing the youth for the future.
“The organised Niger Delta Ijaw communities in the United States are not only sending their children to school, but beginning to prepare them in the relevant areas, so that after graduation they would not roam the streets in search of jobs,” he said.
Currently, Mr. Jaja said, the Foundation is raising fresh funds for additional scholarships for Ijaw students from other part of the Niger Delta region, adding that future scholarship awards would cover other states in the region, including Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Imo and Abia States.
While urging other Ijaw citizens in Diaspora to support the initiative to continue to grow, Mr. Jaja said paying closer attention to the welfare of the communities in the Niger Delta has strengthened his commitment to the pursuit of the ALSCON bid, saying he was hopeful that the transaction would soon be completed, so that, on graduation, beneficiaries of the scholarships would have where to deploy their skills and education to the continued development of the region.