Why I Embarked On Scholarship Scheme In Kogi – Abuja Based Journalist
by daily Times
Gowon Egbunu is an Abuja based journalist and publisher of Parliament International Magazine. In his determination to put smiles into the faces of some indigent students in his state, Kogi, Egbunu, few years ago, decided to embark on a scholarship scheme under which many have benefitted in one way or the other.
In this interview with Lateef Ibrahim of our Abuja Bureau, Egbunu shed light on what motivated him into embarking on the scheme as well as his future plans for the scheme among other issues.
Few years back, you did embark on a scholarship scheme in your state, Kogi. What prompted you into this and when exactly did it start?
I have a passion for education because in any in any society, education is the best gift anybody can be given. And then, I have equally had the privilege of being sponsored by my own school because I was into sports and I played handball for my own school, the then Buffaloes of Makurdi, when we (Kogi State) were in the old Benue State. So, I know the extent that has gone, and I know the benefits of my school offering me a scholarship because of sports. So, about six years ago, I decided to travel my country home, and then I saw some young boys and girls who were supposed to be in school, but were not. I asked why they were not in school and they said no school fees. And how much was the school fees? Some were paying as low as N1,000 and N2000 as the case may be. Yet, the parents could not afford it because of the level of poverty in the land. I was moved by plight of these students and there and then I resolved that I must find a way of assisting them in my own little way. By the special grace of God, I have been able to assist a lot of them. It is not a foundation yet, but I plan to run one soonest.
As at January this year, we have about ninety-seven people who have benefitted from this. Some are already graduates. So, this how we started.
How long has this programme gone on now?
It has been on for between five to six years.
What are the guidelines for this scholarship scheme?
What I do is that sometimes, I could walk into a secondary school, meet with the principal and tell him that I want the best of the best of his students who are indigents. And sometimes I walk into a school, and if I have up to five, ten pupils, and I don’t have the wherewithal to cover everybody, we go into a kind of balloting. We write “Yes” or “No” scholarship.
So, if you pick a yes, then we will go to your school, pay and then they issue a receipt. Because some of them have the wherewithal, but they will still come saying that they don’t, so the school management helps us to identify whose children they are, and sometimes we do it on our own. This is because some of them take advantage of the opportunity. They will come
to you saying that they just gained admission. For example, during this last Sallah (Muslim festival) that I was home, somebody came to me that he just got admitted to one school in Kogi State. I said okay, where is your admission letter? He said he forgot it at home. And even if he had taken public transport, it would have taken him less than thirty minutes from my country home to where he claimed to have come from. So, I asked him to go and get his letter of admission. I said if you bring it, I’ll give you cash, and you can go and pay. I didn’t see him again. But most of them are very honest. So we really don’t have any guidelines that we follow. It all depends on the situation and where we meet with the people. Some principals, provosts of colleges of education, take it upon themselves to call us directly, saying, we have some students who are brilliant but are unable to cope financially. Can you help? And we collaborate and assist, sometimes, with problems of feeding, and accommodation. We completely define that if you have your admission letter, from any tertiary institution, and then we take over completely. So this is where we are now. But we intend to make it a full package soon.
Well, perhaps in the next six months or so. We are planning towards February 2016.
As a media practitioner, how will you assess media practice in Nigeria under the current civilian administration and also under the past military regime?
Media practice now is far better than in the past under the military. I can tell you that the media in Nigeria today, in a democracy, is far better than what we experienced under the military. We have a greater future. You will notice that we are the ones who set agenda for every government at every level, from the local to the federal. So, there is a big future for us if we really know our own value as journalists.
Would you say that the advent of the social media has affected mass media practice in the country?
Yes, it has affected us negatively, no doubt. But I want you to know that many people still believe in the traditional media. It is not everybody who believes in the social media or information they read on it. Social media, with your handset, you can sit down here, write your stories. You are the reporter, the editor, and the publisher all combined. This is not so with traditional media. In traditional media, you as a reporter or as an editor somebody somewhere oversees you. In social media, there is no such thing. It is mainly a one-man show. So, it has no doubt affected us. But a lot of people, not only in Nigeria, but even globally, still believe more in the traditional media.
So, what words of advice do you have for upcoming journalists?
My advice to them is very simple. They should be very patience and persevere in doing their work at all times. They shouldn’t be into much of a hurry to make money.