Five female students from Ondo, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states have been awarded scholarships worth N5 million each to study in tertiary institutions by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
The five lucky girls, Ayomide Adeyeye, Amarachi Orjiugo, Edidiong Francis Bassey, Blessing Jeremiah James and Grace Bassey, were among the top 10 winners at the grand finale of the Girls in Engineering, Mathematics and Science, GEMS, competition held in Port Harcourt on Wednesday.
The overall winner at the grand finale, Miss Ayomide Adeyeye from Ondo State emerged from a total of 33 GEMS finalists who were selected from three regional competitions organized by the NDDC.
Speaking at the occasion, the Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, said that the finalists were selected from a rigorous elimination process that began with 2,880 girls from the 9 states covered by the commission. “From the first screening test, 1,110 girls were selected at 30 girls per state. They progressed to the state finals, where 11 girls qualified from each of the three regions,” she said.
The NDDC boss said that GEMS was meant to promote innovative research and standards-based practices, which would encourage students with interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to thrive in the 21st century global economy. She added: “We believe that science and technology can become exciting again, for our young ones. GEMS presents a healthy competition that helps our girls interpret science in such a way that we can use science, in a glamorous way, to do every day things, and resolve every day challenges.”
Mrs. Semenitari said that GEMS would ignite a spark within the girls, as well as in the society, which was expected to build into a fire that would lead to great things. “It is good for our society, and good for the Niger Delta region. It is good for our collective future. Consequently, we call on other well-meaning organisations across the Niger Delta, especially oil and gas companies, to partner with us on the GEMS programme, so that it becomes a worthy and engaging incubator for breeding young ladies who will grow up to conquer the world in various STEM-related careers,” she declared.
In his address at the event, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said that the GEMS programme would give the Girl Child in Niger Delta Region in particular, and Nigeria at large a sense of pride, dignity and opportunity to excel in Engineering, Mathematics and Science studies which before now, had been dominated by their male counterparts.
The minister, who was represented by a director in his ministry, Dr. (Mrs.) Nnenna Okoronkwo, said that the present administration under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari placed a high premium on Science, Technology and Innovation (ST&I).
He said: “The Ministry and her agencies are also partnering with several organizations in building the capacity of youths in diverse ways to enable them become relevant to themselves and the society through the adoption of innovation as our way of life. Realizing the vital role of women, the ministry has also established a gender desk with the objective of mentoring most importantly the girl child in primary and secondary schools. It is my belief that NDDC will partner with the ministry on this.”
Dr. Onu observed that the Niger Delta Region was highly endowed with enormous human capital and natural resources, which had made it very strategic to the socio-economic development of the nation. “I am indeed proud of the achievements of all the girls and I implore them to see this exercise beyond a mere competition and awards. Indeed, projects exhibition is one of the best learning experiences a student can undertake, because it encourages critical thinking in solving practical and challenging problems. Furthermore, it showcases students’ creativity, broadens their horizon, helps in acquisition of relevant skills in goal setting, self-sufficiency, planning as well as oral communication,” he said.