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Nigeria’s Best and Brightest Finding Scholarship Gold in Washington, D.C.

By Omolola Roseline Pedro

Either by brains or grit, or by hook and crook, Nigeria’s genius students are finding their way to American schools.

The standouts include Destiny Ogedegbe, who  gained admission into two prestigious universities including Harvard University and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom for his Master of Law degree. https://www.scholarshipregion.com/brilliant-nigerian-man-wins-scholarship-to-study-in-both-harvard-and-oxford-university-lands-in-the-us/  Ogedegbe got even more scholarship loot: he was also awarded several scholarships to pursue his Master of Law (LLM) program. He is one of the only four Nigerians accepted by Harvard University with a U.S. scholarship, he crowed on LinkIn.

Nigerian braniacs include 18-year-old Achunike Okafor, who found in his mailbox more than 40 scholarship offers, offered many from top univerties such as Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Princeton, Penn State, Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Southern California, and Rutgers. Achunike graduated with a record-shattering 4.625 grade-point average from Science Park High School at Newark in New Jersey,  ranking the highest among Newark’s 2,649 graduates in the Class of 2023 and the highest ever for the city public school district.

According to Achunike’s father,  Godfrey Okafor, education is a big deal in their home.

“We place a high premium on education in our home. Education, and continuing to learn in life, allows young people to provide for themselves and their families and build their future,” he said.

Like Achunike, 15-year-old Oyinkansola Ewedemi who got raptured by The National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), Atlanta, United States, as a member.

Ewedemi is a freshman in the STEM program of James Martin High School in Arlington, Texas, United States.

The president of the High School Scholars group, James Lewis, said Oyinkansola Ewedemi consistently had a high-grade point average throughout her high school. He further noted that his group recognized top scholars who had demonstrated outstanding leadership, scholarship, and community commitment.

Scholarships from Uncle Sam

Many Nigerians look to the educational ladder as the Holy Grail. This is why an average Nigerian family has at least one university graduate.  According to a 2022 report, Nigeria’s literacy rate is at  62 percent. No fewer than 519 institutions offer higher degrees, including 170 universities, 150 polytechnics, 152 Colleges of Education, and 47 mono-technics.  Which explains why the “Giant of Africa” produces at least 500,000  graduates annually.

As all families know, the cost of college education in a nation saddled with one of the world’s poorest masses is prohibitive without scholarships. The good news for thousands is that the United States spends close to $30 million a year to get Nigeria’s best and brightest to come stateside.

“We are proud to prioritize Nigeria’s scholars in our consular process, as we recognize the value their success holds for the country’s future,” according to US Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard in 2021.  

In 2021 13,700 Nigerian students were studying at tertiary U.S. institutions of higher learning, and more than $28 million in U.S. government scholarships helped them to get there. Even more Nigerians came the year before the pandemic.

According to ICEF Monitor, a German-based nonprofit, the United States hosted 15,980 Nigerian students as of early 2019, making it the fourth most popular study abroad destination for young people from the West African nation.  https://www.studyinternational.com/news/nigerian-students-us-28m-scholarships/

 Education USA, funded by the U.S. Treasury,  gives a full ride and transportation money every year to students of low income, too. At least 320 best of the best Nigerian students  have snagged these scholarships, according to  Amb. Leonard.

The Scammer and  a Bitcoin Rescuer

Nigeria is famous and infamous for its paradoxes. For a country with an all-time high unemployment rate, where almost 100 million people survive on $2 a day, Nigerians continue to smash goals and gain recognition in various fields— from technology to sciences, engineering and management, including fraud. 

Yet, even as whiz kids like Achunike and Oyinkansola are smashing academic goals, 19-year-old Mmesoma Ejikeme may go down in history as Nigeria’s youngest scholarship fraudster.

 Ejikeme, a high-school student of the Anglican Girls Secondary school, Nnewi, Anambra State sparked a media frenzy by forging her Joint Admission Matriculation Board ( JAMB) result score.  Her scam sent the chattering class of mediaites buzzing with Schadenfreude and in no time she was on the lips of Nigerians of every class.

If the almost clever young girl had confessed to her crime before it became a national discourse, maybe she would have gotten a more lenient reprimand against the 3 years ban placed on her by the examination board, according to some observers.

But she was not an outlier. According to a 2022 publication  cited by Premium Times, Nigeria’s National Examination Council (NECO) revealed that a total of 13,594 candidates cheated during the school-based examination.

Ejikeme’s fall from grace was dire: her 3 million naira scholarship from the Nigerian Automobile Company, Innoson Vehicles, vanished into the mist on the Niger River. And yet, in a nation infamous for scammers, there was an angel in the wings.

Mr. Umeh Kamsiyochukwu, Nigerian millionaire and crypto investor, popularly known as BitcoinChief, insisted that despite the revelation of Mmesoma’s fraudulent act, he’d go ahead with the already promised scholarship offer.

Time will tell which Nigerian trend young Ms. Ejikeme will exemplify.

Omolola Roseline Pedro writes on politics and culture from Oyo for TruthNigeria.com.

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