Education is the bedrock of societal growth. It is the basis on which the development of any nation is hinged. It also enhances the intellectual depth of its citizens. In between the academic inclination of any scholar comes varying degrees of challenges ranging from access to funding, effective studying, transition to University life, budgeting, time management, and even domestic concerns.
For Patrick Okon, a native of Obio Offot in Uyo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, these challenges turned a source of motivation and propelled him to academic excellence. This brief narration captures how Patrick scaled through numerous hurdles in his quest for an academic inclination to emerge the best student of the Department of Pharmacy, the University of Uyo for the 2019/2020 graduating set and bagged three prestigious awards.
A young and vibrant mind, Patrick applied to study Pharmacy at the University of Uyo in 2015 and got admitted the same year. Disaster struck when he lost his father a year after. The loss of a sponsor is a core reason some promising students cannot advance their quest for knowledge given the economic realities of present-day Nigeria.
Like others, Patrick latched onto an opportunity and applied to write the qualifying examination of Senator Obong Bassey Albert’s (OBA) scholarship scheme. He sat for the aptitude test, passed, and got listed as a beneficiary. No fewer than 5,461 candidates have applied for the scheme since its inception in 2016.
The development was a relief for Patrick, as he knew his tuition fees were guaranteed till he graduates, while also receiving a stipend of ten thousand naira (N10,000) every semester. A similar gesture applies to 380 others that have benefitted from the scheme in the past six years.
The Scholarship scheme facilitated by the Senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East and Chairman Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream) gulps a minimum of Eighteen Million Naira (N18m) per academic session. A hundred and forty (140) beneficiaries were selected from the first phase in 2016, while two hundred and forty-one (241) others followed suit after the qualifying examination for the second phase held in 2019.
An Indian Scholar, Jandhyala Tilak, highlights three fundamentals of educational funding as equity, efficiency, and diversity. These are the precepts that the Senator OBA Scholarship scheme is built-upon.
Citing Patrick as a case study, equity could be how the scholars emerged devoid of political sentiments, favoritism, religious and ethnic biases. On the grounds of efficiency, prompt payment of his tuition fees allowed him to concentrate on his studies for optimal results. In diversifying, Patrick explored opportunities in research and earned a place of pride in the ivory tower.
Gaining admission to study Pharmacy in the University is the desire of most science students, but completing it is quite a task. To graduate from the discipline, a student must have offered a minimum of 10 courses every semester and at least 118 in five years. The projection is similar to what is obtainable for Engineering based fields but lesser than the requirement for Medical students.
For an average student studying the course in the University, becoming a pharmacist is the main objective. The task could be daunting, but the joy derived from the day of taking the oath is enough to compensate for the rigors. The profession is versatile and with enormous prospects for job opportunities ranging from academia/research, industry, community health expertise, specific and administrative roles in hospitals, and public health expertise.
Patrick scaled the hurdle and graduated top of a class of more than 100 students, with first-class honors (4.57 CGPA). He also bagged an outstanding award from the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria (PANS). The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) also honoured him with a prestigious award.
Between 2016 and 2020, the scheme has produced seven (7) first-class graduates with Ememobong Akpanekpo, an indigene of Uyo Local Government Area, and Wisdom Ibokette from Etinan in the mix. Ememobong and Wisdom were students of the Department of Computer Engineering and Civil Engineering at the University of Uyo.
At an induction ceremony held recently, Patrick described the benefactor of the scheme (Senator Albert) as a Guardian Angel who came through when he desperately needed one. He said the scholarship program shows the concern and care of the benefactor towards Akwa Ibom sons and daughters, especially in academia.
Advising on the need to embrace the culture of hard work, consistency, and dedication to service, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Professor Nyaudo Ndaeyo, charged students of the institution to emulate the gesture of Patrick, whom he described as a true reflection of what the University stands for.
Patrick joined the train, earned himself a seat in the front row, embarked on the journey, and finished strong.