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From hawking pure water, Archibong inches towards academic glory

Emejuru, Adedamola and Archibong
For the poor but brilliant pupils, there is still hope for academic success, Charles Abah of The Punch writes.

Akan Archibong, Odefunsho Adedamola, Emmanuel Emejuru and 17 other pupils share one thing in common – they are all indigent but brilliant pupils. Again, they are all enjoying full scholarship in pursuit of their academic programmes, courtesy of Grace High School, Gbagada, Lagos.

Beyond this, they have their different life stories and narratives to tell.

For 20-year-old Archibong, who, today, is a Chemistry undergraduate at the University of Lagos, life has not been full of roses.

He says, “I came to Lagos in 2005 as a house boy. The woman who brought me agreed to be paying me N400 every month while I would be washing plates and hawking pure water for her. Of course, I had no option but to agree to her terms because there was no hope of survival. Then I had lost my mother and I had no knowledge of my father.

“But after a year, I asked her to be keeping the money so that she could enrol me in a school. That was how I eventually entered Eric Moore Junior High School, Surulere.”

Pursuing his studies then, he adds, was rather difficult, as his life revolved mainly around hawking on the streets of Surulere and assisting in the vendor’s shop.

The school agenda, he explains, was more of a part-time.

He states, “It was difficult for me selling from 6pm to 2am and going to school the next day. There was no time to study. I usually did my assignments on my way to the market. I slept late and woke up early. It was, indeed, a very difficult period in my life.

However, providence, the Akwa Ibom State-born lad notes, altered this situation.

He explains, “In JSS 3, my principal, Mrs. Kayode Amund, selected me to write the Grace High School Indigent Scholarship Examination. Following the success I recorded in the examination, Grace High School awarded me full scholarship.

“In the new school, I was offered everything that I needed–full boarding, tuition and medical attention. The school even paid all my examination fees.”

Besides, the young lad, who still wants to study Medicine, adds that the school transformed his life. He explains, “I made 2A’s, 5B’s and 2C’s in my West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination. I also emerged the best pupil in Physics, Biology, and Agricultural Science.

“I also received Best Prefect Award for exemplary conduct and based on this, I got an A-level scholarship offer at Cambridge College, Ikeja. I am at present in UNILAG studying Chemistry Science with a GPA of 4.6. I am there on the sponsorship of Grace Schools.”

Another beneficiary, 21-year-old Adedamola, a-third-year Economics undergraduate at the Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, got the Grace Schools scholarship in 2005. Hitherto, she was a pupil of Ansar-ud-deen Model College, Isolo, Lagos.

She notes, “My parents could not afford to train me in a private school. But when I took the Grace High School Indigent Scholarship examination and passed, I was instantly given admission and full scholarship to the school.

“I must add that the school became a turning point in my life. With the exposure and the opportunities that it offered, I began to see the other school of life.”

Adedamola, who wants to run her own fashion house in future, particularly hails the administrator of Grace Schools, Mrs. Tokunbo Edun, for the transformation in her life.

Thirteen-year-old Emejuru from Ihiala, Anambra State, who also secured admission and scholarship to Grace High School last September, notes that there is a world of difference between his former school, Ewutuntun Junior Grammar School, Oshodi, and the present one.

“What else can I say when I am on scholarship and receiving other corresponding benefits from the school?” the lad whose mother is a petty trader asks.

For the administrator of the school, the need to assist the poor but brilliant pupils prompted this initiative.

According to her, before now, the management of the school was sponsoring, at least, two pupils annually from within the institution.

Edun says, “It dawned on me that such scholarships would be better appreciated by children from extremely poor backgrounds. So, 10 years ago, I decided to extend this to indigent students who had completed JS3 in public schools so that they will come over to us at Grace schools from SS1-3.

Besides, we are even sponsoring some of them in the universities.”

The administrator, who says the school has over 20 of such pupils, notes that her joy is to make positive impact on humanity.

She adds, “We hope to continue this programme, God willing. I am extremely happy that we have been able to transform lives and give hope to people and families. I pray and hope that those who have benefitted from this scholarship will also help other people to escape poverty and deprivation when they establish in the future.”

Urging wealthy Nigerians and corporate organisations to engage in such gestures, she adds, “I see many of these children as rough diamonds waiting to shine. I wish we could give more children the opportunity. It breaks my heart to see over 500 children who have been specially selected by their schools to take the examination, and knowing that at the end of the selection process, we will only be taking two or three of them.”

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