BY SIMON REEF MUSA
She is a teenager who has a dream. Three years of inability to realise her dream of getting a university admission to read a course of her choice, Law, is turning life into a forlorn hope. The road prospects of getting an admission are growing dimmer by the day and the possibility of reading her choice course is becoming an upscale journey to be trodden upon.
Born about 19 years ago, Grace Idongesit Edidiong hails from Oruk Anam Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. She attended the Junior Secondary School Life Camp Jabi, Abuja, and thereafter proceeded to complete her secondary education at the Government Secondary School, Jabi-Abuja.
After the death of her father, she was able to weather the storm of early education through the efforts of her mother whose meagre earnings as a primary school teacher proved too insufficient to afford a life of comfort.
In a bid to realise her educational dream, she sat for her first JAMB exams before turning 16 in 2016 where she scored 210. The scores could not earn her an admission. In 2017, the indomitable spirit of young Grace made her to sit for yet another JAMB and scored 249, while scoring 67 percent at the University of Ilorin post-UME exams. Painfully, she could not secure an admission.
Determined to ensure success in her bid to secure an admission, she wrote another JAMB exams where she scored 275, and also got 31/50 in the post-UME test conducted by the University of Abuja. Her hope of getting an admission foundered to the precipice as she was yet again denied.
Her world seemed to have come to the end. With her scoring 275 in JAMB, relations of young Grace could not understand why their ward was not given admission. Sources in the University of Abuja had advised them to reach out to a senator for recommendation letter. Why should a young teenager, having scored 275 in JAMB, be required to know some political fat cats before securing admission? After several fruitless efforts to get a senatorial recommendation, the admission dream of Grace seemed to have been cup-boarded.
Grace was inconsolable as she lost hope in a country she had all along thought was fair and just. She could not understand why additional condition was needed, apart from getting the required JAMB scores. It took several weeks to persuade Grace to accept the reality of her predicament. The financial status of Grace’s mum made it an impossible option for her to think of applying to a private university.
The tragedy of young Grace in her search for admission is a reflection of what many admission seekers confront. It is pathetic and gross injustice to subject admission seekers to discriminatory conditions in order to frustrate their dreams. If the system allows other candidates to be admitted, even though with less scores, denying Grace an admission on the basis of her state of origin in a university located in Abuja that celebrates our unity is an abominable act.
That explains why there are calls for the structuring of the Nigerian state. We cannot set two conditions for two groups and expect the nation to develop. Couldn’t the school authority admit Grace on merit? By denying Grace an admission, it was obvious that the dream of a prospective judge was momentarily truncated.
It is unfortunate that less than two weeks to celebrating Nigeria @60, things that united us in the past are being discarded. Merit and justice are being obliterated and replaced with matters that promote selfishness and enthronement of divisiveness. Certainly, Nigeria cannot survive the internal rancour tearing our nation apart.
The future of our nation depends on evolving conditions that can assist young Nigerians to realise their dreams. A nation that allows its young population to be trapped in the mud of hopelessness can never build an enduring legacy. The path to Nigeria’s greatness can only be achieved through promoting the future of younger Nigerians like Grace.
In the race for personal and national growth, citizens are often encumbered by impediments. The greatest challenge to both personal and national development is the truncation of the potentials of our youths. The best means of attacking the growth of individuals and the nation is to frustrate the youth in realising their educational dreams through denial of admissions to read courses of their choice.
Denying Grace an admission to read her preferred course is a deliberate effort aimed at truncating her future. In a nation where youths have been abandoned and even those with multiple degrees neglected, the dilemma of Grace assumes a frightening dimension. I stumbled on Grace in one of Abuja’s nameless slums roasting chickens with her aunty.
Grace is a symbol of the tragedy that has befallen Nigerian youths in their search for university admission. There is no hope that even after the acquisition of a degree, that battle to secure a job may dreary and challenging as she may need to pound the streets for a long period before securing a job.
The resort to roasting chickens by her aunty even after acquiring a degree in Sociology should teach her many lessons. The brief period of nearly four years in being in the wilderness of searching for admission has also afforded her an opportunity to have deep introspection and made her to learn and acquire new skills and vocations. Apart from learning the secrets of preparing cakes and other foods for refreshments, Grace is becoming what younger Nigerians should strive to be.
I remembered advising my children not to rely on paper qualifications as I noted to them that skills may come handy and provide food on the table in the event certificates fail. Though it never seemed a popular advice with them, my children are now beginning to embrace it.
With a government that has no plan for its growing population, there is no end to the tragedy trailing the future of the youths. For Nigerian youths, the future is weakened by the incapacity of government to evolve policies aimed at developing the potentials of youths. The clouds that hover our skies and dim the brightness of tomorrow have forced most of our youths to embrace crimes as means of surviving the times.
No one can entirely blame the youth for resorting to illegal shortcuts to realise their dreams. We need to cleanse the system and make it a worthwhile venture for everyone to embrace sincerity and path of virtue in treading the journey of life. Our national leadership must end this despicable practice of imposing quota system in admission exercise.
If we as Nigerians are committed to the development of our nation, we should do away with acts that discriminate on the basis of state origin. If after six decades of political freedom we are still enmeshed in the mess that has denied Grace an admission to read a course of her choice, then, we are not a nation but a contraption that has been wielded together to advance the interests of a very few above others.
Still not willing to give up, she rose from her despair and sat for yet another JAMB in 2020 and scored 243. This time around, she has applied to read Public Relations. Somehow, she believes that the divine powers may assist help her to read Law. She strongly believes that her inability to get admission is hinged on her state of origin. This time around, she as applied to the University f Uyo where she hopes acquire a degree.
Grace has granted this reporter an interview on why she still holds onto her dream. Can some kind-hearted Nigerians come to her assistance? Only time shall tell.