Tejiri Ebikeme

The blind students (L-R) Idowu Philip; Emmanuel Sylvanus; Felix Lodio and Gabriel Godwin

The blind students (L-R) Idowu Philip; Emmanuel Sylvanus; Felix Lodio and Gabriel Godwin

While most companies concentrate their Corporate Responsibility programs on the healthy and able-bodied people, a multinational oil company in Nigeria has gone a step further to consider the hardships of the visually-impaired students from the Niger Delta region in various tertiary institutions around the country.

With its Blind students scholarship programme started in 2007, the NNPC/Chevron Joint Venture has proved that hope still remains for the blind students who have lost all hope of pursuing further education due to financial handicap.  Over 200 students in various tertiary institutions receive N150,000 annually from the NNPC/Chevron Joint Venture under this scholarship scheme.

Recently, some of the blind students under the aegis of the Niger Delta Blind Students Association shared the story of how Chevron’s scholarship has changed their lives and helped them to continue their education and to meet the requirements of higher education in Nigeria.

Emmanuel Sylvanus is a recipient of the NNPC/Chevron blind scholarship. He is a final year student of Mass Communications at the Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashiuku, Delta State. He also revealed that he is a child of a blind woman and a brother to four blind persons in his family.  According to him, the scholarship has brought succor not only to himself but also his family.

He explained: “As, a child of a blind woman and a brother to four blind persons in my family, you can understand that the means of survival for daily bread is even difficult not to talk of affording higher education.”

He also noted that, “Chevron has made it possible for some blind students who would have dropped out of school because of lack of money to remain intact in the school system.” Emmanuel, who also observed that, through the scholarship, the company has taken away some burden off the government, mentioned that it has enabled him to perform excellently in his school graduating in 2010 as the second-best student in the Ordinary National Diploma level before he proceeded to the Higher National Diploma level.

The story is the same with Gabriel Godwin, an indigene of Urhobo in Delta State, Nigeria, and a final year student of Mass Communications at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN).

He noted that Chevron’s scholarship has gone a long way to alleviate his financial plight in the school. “I find it easy to pay my school fees, buy the necessary textbooks, tape recorder and some other materials needed in the school for the smooth running of my academic activities.”, he said. Describing Chevron as a unique company, Gabriel remarked: “This (Chevron) is the only oil company in Nigeria and even in Africa that has given this exceptional scholarship to the visually impaired particularly the Niger Delta students – there is no aptitude test, nothing whatsoever….”

Felix Lodio and Idowu Philip are also beneficiaries of the NNPC/Chevron Blind students’ scholarship. While Felix is a final student of English/Literature in Delta State University of Technology (Affiliated to College of Education Warri, Nigeria), Idowu, an indigene of Ondo State and a final year student of Mass communication at the University of Nigeria Nsukka.

According to them, apart from alleviating their financial hardship, the scholarship has helped them to compete favorably with their sighted colleagues in their schools.

The families of the scholarship beneficiaries have also commented on the positive impact of the scholarship award to their children. One of them is Mr. Edison Edhere from Delta State, the father of one of the beneficiaries, Omoefe Edhere, a final year student of Special studies at the University of Jos. Expressing delight on the scholarship, Mr. Edhere stated: “I had stroke for over 10 years now. If not for this scholarship from Chevron, there would have been no hope for me and my family. ”

The President of Niger Delta blind students’ Association, Tariye Ben Omietimi, an indigene of Bayelsa State said the vision of gathering the blind students under an umbrella came out of his compassion for the teaming visually-impaired students who had no exposure as to where to get help. He commended the NNPC/Chevron for extending its corporate responsibility programmes to the blind students.

The NNPC/Chevron Joint Venture has shown that apart from delivering on its core objective of oil and gas production, the company continues to add value to the society.