Abuja - The Federal Government has rewarded 101 candidates, who bagged 1st Class degrees, scholarships to study up to PhD level in 25 top universities abroad.
Presenting the awards to the beneficiaries on Monday in Abuja, the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa'i, said the event was a celebration of ``yet another milestone in the development of the education sector’’.
Rufa'i said government was confident that by awarding scholarships to deserving candidates, it was sowing a seed that would be of tremendous benefit to the country.
She said the `Presidential Scholarship Scheme for Innovation and Development' was instituted by the government as part of efforts to achieve the Vision: 20:2020 and government’s transformation agenda.
``The Federal Government plans to develop a critical mass of professionals who would serve as catalysts of change and agents of scientific and technological advancement, as well as sustainable economic development.’’
The minister said the scheme was meant to select candidates who had excelled in specified disciplines such as sciences, basic medical sciences and special aspects of biology, as well as economics, engineering, technology and medicine.
``For the first time in Nigeria, we have carried out a selection process that is based purely on merit. Mr President's instruction was very clear from day one; that merit, and merit only, be the criterion for selecting the awardees,'' Rufa’i said.
She said that of the 1,300 candidates who applied for the scholarship, 449 were shortlisted and invited for the computer-based test and all of them did very well.
The minister added that only 101 of them could be accommodated because of limited spaces being a maiden scheme.
Rufa'i congratulated those who ``scaled the last hurdle'', and urged them to be law-abiding, humble and God-fearing.
She, however, warned that government would not hesitate to withdraw the scholarship of any beneficiary found to be involved in any act capable of denting the image of the country.
The minister said the offer included tuition, accommodation, transportation, living expenses and local travels, adding that the breakdown would be known when the awardees received their admission letters.
Earlier, the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Prof. Julius Okojie, had said that ``divine providence had put Nigeria on the path of recovery in the education sector'' through the efforts of the current administration.
Okojie said the country earned the epithet `giant of Africa’ in the past because of the scholarship awards to Nigerians, which bred thorough professionals that contributed greatly to the development of the country.
He expressed confidence that the scheme would yield good harvest in due course.
The executive secretary urged the beneficiaries to be hardworking and tolerant as they were bound to face challenges outside the shores of ``your home such as discrimination’’.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the minister presented letters of awards to the successful candidates made up of 20 females and 81 males, including a physically-challenged person.