Reinforcing its determination to improve the lot of the girl child in Nigeria, members of the board of trustees of the Ajesola Solarin Majekodumi Foundation, ASMAF rose from a closed door meeting with which to usher in the 10th anniversary activities of the non-governmental organization, Friday.
Presiding, Emeritus professor Soga Sofola said the team was driven all the time- organizing meetings, looking at programs and implementing policies with a view to actualizing the aim of the Foundation, which is to award scholarships to needy female students pursuing professional courses. The 10th anniversary ceremonies are slated for November. Fielding questions from WO, he revealed that the major criteria is that candidates must be academically sound.
Another trustee, Hon Justice Yetunde Adesanya added that though it has not been easy to keep up with the assignment, it was nonetheless a worthy cause for which she has had to make herself available.
The day to day affairs of the Foundation are overseen by its secretary, Barr Olukayode Aribaba , who handles the administration and paperwork. According to him, it is "challenging but exciting" working with very senior high achievers who would naturally set very high standards who also set the agenda.
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As the world last week marked the International Day of the Girl Child, it appeared to be lamentations across board without a commensurate display of the will to attempt to upturn her dire fate. This has not been the case with ASMAF Foundation which has put no fewer than young women through tertiary education in Nigeria.
A selection committee, headed by a Gender Specialist Uche Udeani, a professor of Education, screens the candidates, who represent the six geo political zones of the country. During the process and ceremonies, scholars have an interface with the trustees but according to the Justice Adesanya, they are not intimidated."During their courses, we make sure they attend leadership programs. for mentoring and so on", Justice Adesanya explained.
For most of the scheme's beneficiaries, a fate that would have seen them stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty and ignorance might have been their lot as most are from indigent backgrounds, though brilliant. A typical example is Zainab, a citizen of Gombe statewho had already been given in marriage as third wife to an elderly man before clinching an ASMAF scholarship. Zainab, who emerged a First Class graduate of Accountancy from Gombe state university now works as a lecturer in her alma mata.
"This is why it is gratifying, exciting and fulfilling", said a happy Justice Adesanya, "We cannot take the credit for Zainab's success. She is also physically handicapped, but now a lecturer. Imagine her lot without education."
When Zainab won the scholarship it was the first time she would be going to Lagos. ASMAF Secretary, who took her on a tour also expressed his fulfilment, "moreso from a humanitarian perspective, making contributions in your own small corner".
Professor Sofola further revealed that in the course of screening scholars, the trustees have heard many heart breaking stories. Another beneficiary who currently studies Veterinary Medicine at the University of Ibadan was the daughter of a vulcanizer who used to run a pepper grinder every morning before attending her lectures. This was a major distraction.
Like for most non-profit establishments, funding is an issue and public response to calls has been very discouraging, apart from the seed funding from the Founder at inception, according to ASMAF trustees.
In our society, according to Justice Adesanya, "a lot of people do not like to do good that the world would not see".
Professor Sofola decried a situation where Nigerians were ready to part with billions of naira in order to vote for their favourite candidates in the recently concluded Big Brother Nigeria reality television show, saying that most of the big brands are more interested in sponsoring Music and Entertainment.. He challenged Nigerians to put their money where their mouths are. "In one of the universities in the North, the Vice Chancellor was asking the female students what they wanted to be. Some of them wanted to be First Ladies", he added. 'They actually think it is a profession. Why not the Governor or the President?".
Founder, Professor Majekodumi expressed deep gratitude to God for His protection over the last 10 years, while lauding the trustees whom, according to her, had shown great sacrifice and commitment.
The Foundation also plans to inaugurate an alumni association in order to spread the word, which the scholars do by speaking to the public during ceremonies.
The Foundation's 10th year anniversary coincides with the 80th birthday anniversary of its founder, Professor Ajesola Majekodumi; as well as the launch of a 100 million appeal fund with which to build a befitting secretariat as well as to sponsor more girls. "We hope to raise a lot of money", Sofola concluded.