When Zulum Gave A Princely Lifetime Opportunities To 19 Borno Orphans

By Abdulkareem Haruna

“Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names; They are easier to ignore before you see their faces; It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms;  But once you do, everything changes.”

The above poetic quote from David Platt readily came to my mind when I was going through the press statement sent to me by the Adviser on public relations and strategy to Governor Babagana Zulum – Malam Isa Gusau. 

The statement mentioned that the governor had approved the sum of N250 million as tuition and related expenses fees for 19 selected orphans of Borno origin to study medical sciences in far away Egypt. 

What remained strikingly interesting about the story as I edited to tally with the Humanitarian Times’ house style was that the 19 orphans are vulnerable indigenes of Borno State who may have lost their parents due to the ongoing, but significantly subsided, Boko Haram conflict. 

Thousands of children had been without either of their parents or were singly raised by a peasant mother in Borno state today. Some are still wandering the streets with their dashed hopes tied to their feet and being crushed daily on the rough roads of Yerwa. Many of them were born brilliant – like gunpowder waiting to be ignited by the slightest scratch of opportunity – and boom, they will spark like stars in the galaxy of knowledge. But they never get such opportunities, and gradually, their inborn talent rust away, and their untapped gifts from God vanish. 

But here I read the cheering news of 19 young children picked up from the ashes of the ruins and dusted to be given an opportunity at a quality education which neither they nor even their parents had ever dreamt for the future. 

Studying medicine is still a lofty dream to even many privileged kids from oily homes – not to mention one to be studied in far away Egypt, where learning is solidly qualitative. 

But Zulum made it easy for these youngsters on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2022. 

Governor  Zulum ensured he met the 19 lucky orphans to bid them a rare farewell as they departed Borno for Suez City in Egypt. 

In the ancient land of the pyramids, they will be studying to obtain Bachelor of Medicine & Surgery (MBBS) degrees on a full government scholarship for five years. 

Some of the lucky orphan that got the foreign scholarship given by Governor Zulum’s administration

Mr. Gusau explained that “the scholarship to Suez University for which Zulum released N250m was one of the outcomes of a visit to some Egyptian Universities in November 2020.

The governor had, during that trip, promised to approve scholarships for youths from the most deprived family backgrounds in Borno State to study in Egypt, other countries, and across Nigeria. 

“Zulum, later in February 2022, made a follow-up visit to the Egyptian embassy in Abuja for a meeting with Ambassador Ihab Awad to discuss the educational partnership,” the Adviser on Public Relations and strategy said.

The Humanitarian Times is impressed that the 19 youths were selected from the 27 local government areas of Borno state. And it was even more exciting to note that of the 19 scholars, seven are young women.  

While receiving the 19 beneficiaries of the foreign scholarship who were led by the Commissioner for Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Babagana Mallambe, at the Government House, Maiduguri, Governor Zulum congratulated them even as he  urged them “to focus on their studies and be good ambassadors of Borno and Nigeria.”

Governor Zulum, in his usual manner, announced the release of $500 to each of them as a special parting gift from him. 

Professor Zulum said each of the 19 students would receive $200 monthly in addition to the earlier statutory provisions for their accommodation and some logistics.

The Chairman of the Borno State Scholarship Board, Malam Baba Isa, has confirmed that all payments and necessary documentation for their travel have been concluded.

Dr . Tamos Khazim, the officer in charge of testing and selection, had verified to The Humanitarian Times  that “the students were admitted after passing pre-qualification examinations.”

The 19 lucky orphans will depart for Egypt on Feb 11, 2023. Thanks to Governor Zulum, who did not only identify with the orphans of Borno but also held them closer to feeling their fragile heartbeats, now everything about their once gloomy future is about to change for good.

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