Executive Secretary, Lagos State Scholarship Board, Mr Abdur-Rahman Lekki, in this interview with GRACE EDEMA, says the board plans to partner with the private sector so as to assist more Lagos indigenes in accessing scholarships
Tell us about the Lagos State Scholarship Board
Lagos State Scholarship Board was established in 1968 and since then, we have been steadily fulfilling the mandate for which the agency was formed, which is to award scholarships and bursaries to indigenes of Lagos State.
On July 15, 2022, we came on board, after an interregnum and slow down of activities for a lot of reasons from bad press to non-payment of scholarships, the government decided on what we could do differently.
Getting Data has always been a problem in Nigeria, how have you solved this?
When we came on board, we did an evaluation of the situation and one of the first things we tried to do was to ensure that there was proper documentation and actionable data on beneficiaries. That was difficult because we really did not have enough data.
When you talk about data, you want to have their names, addresses, phone numbers, NIN, BVN, and LASRRA numbers as well as next of kin and their details. But now, we can conveniently say that anybody that collects a dime from this board, we have every data about the person.
We also have their matric numbers. We have a unique identifier for every beneficiary.
We also saw the need to expand the relationship that the board has with the organised private sector. The scholarship budget for 2022 was around N1.95b. To me, that is paltry if you want to have an impact on education funding, so, we decided to create a structure that will relate a lot more with the private sector. Not only that, we also saw the need to separate some functions within the board. Before now, when students applied for scholarships or bursaries, we had a scholarship department that advertised for it and people applied for it. They do the processing and the four levels of verification, indigenship, studentship, academic status, and assessment in the case of scholarships. All of that is conducted by the Bursary Department.
What are the criteria for getting the scholarship?
For you to get a scholarship, you must have a 2.1 or first class, but for the poor, we have to relax the rules. Someone who is poor may have intellectual capacity but because of the condition that they find themselves. We will continue to support them same with people with disabilities. We relax the rules for them to enable them to benefit from government scholarships.
When we came on board, the government had put on hold foreign scholarship but in our research, we found out that there are loads of funded admissions that are available outside the country and a lot of countries around the world find a way to benefit from those. As a board, we also thought it through on how we can help some of our people in Lagos State to also benefit from such foreign funded scholarship. An opportunity presented itself last year when somebody randomly approached me that she got admission into Stanford University but that the admissions didn’t come with funding. He asked if the board could assist her. We were handicapped, there was no way we could assist because the foreign scholarship was put on hold She was meant to study Cyber Security in Standford. I thought and connected with a few friends. At the end of the day, she sent a mail and was considered and got the admissions valued at 79,000 dollars. We can find a way to facilitate those funded scholarships.
How rich is your board to fund different categories of scholarships?
As we speak, the board has a budget of about N1.9b and by next year because of the special categories of scholarships we want to introduce, we are asking for additional funds for them and we are very hopeful that the governor will make the funds available. The governor prioritises social services. The size of education funding as of today, should not be less than N30b, but about 50 per cent of students in tertiary institutions are not able to fund their education and if you want to support them to fund their education, you need a huge resource base to do that and that is one of the reasons we established the Partnership and Assessment Department to see how can we bring in the private sector to be a part of it. I sincerely believe that once we complete our automation process and we show that we can run a transparent scholarship and bursary administration process, am very sure that the private sector will come to us.