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Unizik ASUU awards scholarships to 50 ‘most-deserving’ students, celebrates 26 retirees

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By Gabriel Chy Alonta

Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka Chapter, on Wednesday, awarded N3 million worth of scholarship to 50 ‘most-deserving’ students to enable them pay school fees for the 2020/2021 academic session.

The union also celebrated over 26 member-retirees, who meritoriously served the union and university at large, for their diligence and commitment. The second edition of the scholarship award took place at ASUU-NAU Secretariat Auditorium. 

Speaking during the occasion, the ASUU-NAU chairperson, Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh, said the occasion was to appreciate senior colleagues who retired from Unizik between 2012 and 2020, as well as award scholarships to the 50 ‘most-deserving’ students of the University. 

According to the chairperson, the gesture was to alleviate the suffering of the students, who, he said, have also borne the pain of the ruling class’ insensitivity to the suffering masses.

Ufoaroh, who commended ASUU-NAU members for donating generously to the gesture despite some academic staff being owed salary arrears, as well as promotion arrears, remarked that “it is part of our social responsibility to our student”. He said each of the 50 students was given N60,000.

He said, “the scholarship award is evidence that ASUU as a union understands the plight of our students and we will go any length to protect the interest of our students, which has made us resist every attempt by FGN to introduce tuition fees in public universities. “We know that many of our students are striving to succeed and can hardly pay the current service charges, being paid in federal universities”. 

He regretted that despite efforts to keep industrial peace in public universities in Nigeria, the agents of Federal Government through IPPIS have continued to push academics to the wall, while decrying that the November 2021 salary was paid with unwarranted shortfalls ranging between N10,000 to N50,000 with no explanation. 

Ufoaroh advised the students to use the scholarship for the payment of their school fees in order to give their parents some relief. He also urged the students to see the union as partners in progress in their quest to save the soul of public universities, by working together to compel government at all levels to fund education. He stressed the relevance of giving every youth opportunity to access quality education in Nigeria.

Unizik Pro-chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council, Prof. Sulyman Kuranga, in a remark, eulogised the retirees and scholarship beneficiaries alike, and commended the union for such audacious move. The pro-chancellor then urged the retirees to keep maintaining relationship with the university, and reiterated the need to properly fund education in Nigeria.

In an address, ASUU President, Comrade Emmanuel Osodeke, represented by the ASUU Owerri Zonal Coordinator, Comrade Uzo Onyebinama, decried the poor funding of education, and noted that its consequences were evinced in the poor standards of living, astronomical high cost of living, pathetic security situation, mass unemployment and under-employment, among others.

Osodeke seized the opportunity to prevail on Nigerians and organisations to call on the Federal Government to address all the issues in the December 2020 Memorandum of Understanding between the FGN and ASUU, whose timelines, according to the president, have long expired. He warned that the patience of the Union should not be construed as a weakness.

Earlier, Prof. Charles Esimone, the vice-chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, thanked ASUU-NAU for brazing the trail and keeping the flag flying. He appreciated retirees for their meritorious service to the University.

Esimone beckoned the students to see the union and university as their friend, assuring that students’ welfare would remain priority of his administration and that of the union. He warned the students against any violence or untoward behaviour whenever in trouble but encouraged them to always use dialogue to reach out to the university management or the union.

Prof. Dennis Aribodor, a former ASUU-NAU chairperson, had, on the sidelines of the occasion, told the beneficiaries to consider themselves privileged, and expressed optimism that the union would continue to sustain the scholarship scheme annually.

In various responses, some of the retirees commended the union for recognising their efforts and sacrifices while in active service, and urged the union not to rest on its oars. They equally commended the sterling leadership of Comrade Ufoaroh, even as they lambasted federal government for not being sincere with the union.

The chief awardee, Chinenye Elizabeth Ikele, from the Department of English Language and Literature, on behalf of the ‘most-deserving’ students, said the gesture was a trans-generational investment in education, and commended the union for such a great sacrifice. While expressing high hope that the scholarships would yield fruits, she assured that the money would be judiciously used for the purpose it was intended.

Responding on behalf of other parents whom their children benefited from the scholarship, Mrs. Chinwe Okafor, lauded ASUU-NAU for remembering those students in need, and said such support would go a long way to cushion the hardship they face.

Presentation of sourvenirs and cheques to retired ASUU-NAU members and ‘most-deserving’ students, as well as poetry performance on ‘Helped in the Nick of Time’ by one of the recipients of the scholarship, Miracle Ozioma Opara, formed the high points of the occasion.

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