The Bayelsa State Government has expanded its scholarship scheme with the introduction of on-line studies into the undergraduate category of the programme, which is expected to take off by September this year in Yenagoa.
Already, the State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson has approved 480 scholars to participate in the newly introduced on-line studies programme for the 2014/2015 academic session with various degree awarding universities.
The Governor, who disclosed this at an interactive forum with scholars on Bayelsa State Government scholarship studying in the United Kingdom in London, explained that, the on-line scholarship scheme will be spread across universities in six continents including Australia, America, Asia, Africa, Eastern and Western Europe.
Describing education as the greatest legacy any government can bequeath to the next generation, Governor Dickson noted that, his administration decided to sustain and expand the scholarship programme to promote human capacity development and Ijaw national integration.
“Education is the greatest legacy we can bequeath to the succeeding generation. Any society that does not invest sufficiently in its human capital development is living on borrowed times. Any society that does not take the education of its people seriously is sitting on a keg of gunpowder.
“That is why the state government declared a state of emergency on education as well as declared compulsory and free education. We are introducing compulsory boarding in secondary schools and government will take responsibility for their feeding , upkeep and maintenance”
The governor, who blamed the slight delay in remittances to the scholars on the sharp decline in revenues accruing to the state from the federation account, said government has nonetheless paid part of the pending scholarship obligations totalling N6.5billion.
According to him, ” In 2012, I made a budget of one billion naira for this all- important programme, but the total bill amounted to N6 billion as against the N1billion set aside. And so, we had to rationalise, because if we had kept to that initial amount, only 15 or 20 of you would have been studying here. But, knowing the depth of our manpower deficit, I considered it as a disservice at this time to see young people, who are hungry for education, and then decide to look the other way for any reason. That’s why I took the bull by the horn to send all of you on scholarship.
” But quite unfortunately, the allocation to the state from the Federation Account came crashing and yet we have other expenses to meet such as contractual obligations to various construction companies who are tearing up our forests to construct roads and other critical infrastructure. That is why our remittances to you have not been as regular as we would have wanted it to be. This development is not peculiar to you.
Earlier, Chairman of the Bayelsa State Scolarship Board, Evangelist Foster Ogola disclosed that, in keeping with a promise the governor made last month, the state government has approved the sum of one million pound sterlings to be released to scholars studying in the United Kingdom.
The Chairman, who was represented by his Special Assistant, Dr Benagha Oye, explained that, the United Kingdom has the largest concentration of beneficiaries of the scholarship programme, adding that about 140 scholars are pursuing Ph.D, over 400 for masters degree with 193 undergraduate students studying various courses ranging from law, medicine, engineering to the social sciences in both foreign and Nigerian universities.
Expressing satisfaction with the performance level of the scholars, Evangelist Ogola particularly commended the students at Lincoln University, noting that though they started academic activities late at the institution, their grade point average (GPA) has always spanned between 3.8 and 4.0.
Earlier in her remarks, Mrs. Binakrumo Ogbebor, who is currently undergoing a Ph.D programme in Journalism at the University of Cardiff, Wales, urged government to develop the tourism potentials of the state to help grow the economy.