In this piece, Abdullahi Olesin presents the testimonies of some persons who benefitted from the education fund set up by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki in his home state, Kwara.
When Oguntominiyi Esther (21) and Oguntominiyi Yemi (23) lost their father in 2004 and mother in 2008, their hope of having university education seemed dashed.
Being from a poor home, they knew it was next to impossible for them to afford university education, and in this age when higher education appears to be everything, their future looked bleak.
But when all hope seemed lost, when the siblings had almost given up all dreams of entering the four walls of a university, succor came for them in 2013.
Prior to that time, the Senate President; Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki had pledged to use his pension as a former governor of Kwara State as educational endowment for the benefit of indigent students of Kwara origin.
Esther and Yemi from Share in Ifelodun local government area of the state were among the first set of indigent students to benefit from the Abubakar Bukola Saraki Student’s Foundation (ABSSF) scheme.
Today, Esther is a 300 level English/ Education student at the University of Ilorin while her brother, Yemi is a 400 level Civil Engineering student in the same university.
Since the commencement of the ABSSF scheme in 2013, over 400 indigent students had been awarded bursary and scholarship.
The scheme had also obtained JAMB forms for about 5000 students.
At the official launching of the programme in 2014, Saraki had announced that 100 students would benefit from it annually.
A very elated Esther told her story: “It was in the year 2013 I was given a JAMB form free of charge by the Saraki Foundation.
“It paved the way for me to gain admission into the University of Ilorin.
“That year, there were four of us from my family seeking admission into the university.
“It was a great relief when JAMB forms were given to two of us in my family by the Saraki Foundation.
“Before this gesture, we could not get assistance from anyone.
“They did not only give us the forms they also organized tutorials for us for six weeks and fed us throughout the period.
“I sat for the examination, scored 206 points and gained admission into the University of Ilorin that same year.
“Upon a special request, Saraki also paid our tuition fees in 2013.”
She explained that there was no way she would have attended a university without the support of the ABSSF.
Although Esther is fulfilling her dream, she is aware that there are many indigent students who also require support.
“I want to plead with the senate president to continue with the scholarship programme and if possible expand it so that other indigent students like us can have access to quality education,” she said.
Although two members of her family have benefited from the Saraki Foundation, one of her siblings could not go further because of lack of funds.
“We are a family of three children-two male and one female. Our sibling just completed his National Diploma programme.
“He could not go to the university because of financial constraint.
“That’s why I plead with Senate President to graciously consider expanding the scope of the foundation,” said.
Like his sister, Yemi is full of praise for the Saraki Foundation.
“His story: “I completed my secondary education in 2009 while my sister completed hers’ in 2011.
“Between 2011 and 2013 my sister had to go and learn a trade -fashion design-because there was no money to sponsor her higher education.
“Until the Foundation intervened and changed our story.
“So, we thank Saraki for his assistance which has made our dream of having university education a reality”.
Umar Aliyu Ayinla (43) is another beneficiary of the Abubakar Bukola Saraki students Foundation.
A 400 level student of Political Science from the University of Ilorin, Ayinla’s JAMB form was paid for by the foundation.
“It was a dream come true,” he recalled.
“I had earlier obtained HND (Accounting) in 1998 at the Kwara state Polytechnic, Ilorin but because of the dichotomy in HND and Degree certificates I decided to further my education.
“I saw it as a challenge to have a degree.
“So when the issue of ABSSF free JAMB programme was launched in 2013 I had the opportunity of not only having the free form but also benefited from the coaching classes.
“[These] aided my performance during the examination.
“Though I am a teacher at junior secondary school level, I could not afford the form because of the prevailing economic situation and family commitments.
“I am from Ori-oko in Ilorin west LGA and married with four children.
“I want to thank Saraki for his kind gesture but like Oliver Twist I want to plead with him:
“To pay the tuition fees of those that got admission into the university through the scheme as he has done for some Law School students”.