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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

In Anambra, Groups Disburse over N10m to Clear School Fees of 85 Indigent Students


By Mmaduabuchi Onwumelu

No fewer than 85 indigent students and their families were thrown into joy on Sunday, as the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, His Lordship, Most Reverend Paulinus Ezeokafor, through the Justice, Development and Peace Caritas (JDPC), Awka Diocese, in collaboration with the Help For All (HIFA) Initiative, Austria — a Non-Governmental Organization — disbursed a whopping sum of ten million four hundred and forty-five thousand Naira, to cover their school fees.

The event, which held at the St. Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, Awka, Anambra State capital, where the cheques were presented, had beneficiaries (including primary pupils and secondary school students) drawn from different denominations across the state.

Declaring the event open, Bishop Ezeokafor exhorted the beneficiaries to work harder in their academic pursuits, saying that the only meaningful and fastest way they can achieve greatness and attain their full potential is through access to quality education. He urged them to be focused and resolute in their quest for a better and greater future, emphasizing that without education they may not reach the heights they desire. He added that only hardworking students would continue to enjoy the tuition fees payment package while the unserious ones would no longer take part in it.

The charismatic and influential prelate, who was represented by the Education Secretary of the Catholic Diocese of Awka, Reverend Father Maximus Okonkwo, charged the students to take their studies seriously and guard against distractions and anything that would deny them the opportunity of enjoying the largesse as well as losing track and focus.

The outspoken cleric admonished students to take their education seriously and maintain good conduct as well.

Presenting the cheques to the beneficiaries at JDPC, Awka Diocese Secretariat, located inside St. Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, Awka, the Director of JDPC, Awka Diocese, and the Chairman of the Anambra State HIFA Board, Rev. Fr. Levi Ukor, said that they worked in partnership with HIFA Austria, noting that the organization was formed and funded by retired teachers in Austria.

“The sponsors are interested in your results, your performance, and reports from the school authority. These are the things that are encouraging the sponsors to increase the money instead of giving out the usual 121,000 Naira they are giving to each student. The total money we are spending this year is ten million four hundred and forty-five thousand Naira. Last year we spent seven million Naira. So, it is not a small amount of money. We want people to know that the Church is spending this huge amount of money on education,” he said.

Fr. Ukor thanked Bishop Ezeokafor for seeing the need to help indigent people in securing their future through continuous education.

Fr. Ukor, who asserted that the bishop could have channeled the funds to other areas but decided to always help the indigent, added that it was a long-standing event that did not begin this year.

He, however, added that the NGO moved a notch further by increasing the fund from the seven million it was last year to ten million Naira. This, he said, was in recognition of the economic situation in the country.

In cautioning parents to make judicious use of the fund, the director also challenged the students to always improve in their academic excellence, stating it was the only way to appreciate HIFA and the bishop. Some of the students whose academic records were impressive were also rewarded with additional funds, according to the director.

According to Rev. Fr. Ukor, they scout for indigent students yearly, after which the lucky ones are thoroughly investigated to ascertain all facts before compiling and submitting their names to HIFA Austria for the onward release of funds. He noted that they also engage in building and renovating schools and hospitals and that they are into the provision of transportation to ease the stress and hardship caused by a lack of adequate vehicles and means of transportation.

The Director of JDPC, Awka Diocese, stated that they do not pay only tuition fees but equally pay for medical bills of the destitute and also train them in many skills acquisitions. He said that the program was an annual event and that many indigent students and gifted children had been saved and empowered through the initiative.

Rev. Fr. Ukor, who said that the organization was co-founded by Adolf Pester and Rev. Fr. Aaron Ekwu (Late), noted that it was designed basically to cater for the poor in society and also help in closing the gap in infrastructure and other areas of life. He announced that HIFA Austria is already in six states in Nigeria and has been carrying out back-to-back humanitarian services in Anambra State and Nigeria.

He announced that the students were drawn from different schools in Anambra State, not minding their religious or denominational inclinations and faith, saying that some were picked from schools in Awka, Nnewi, Onitsha, Ihiala, Ekwulobia, and Orumba, among others. He added that the beneficiaries were selected through the applications submitted during their monthly meetings.

In his remark, the JDPC Diocesan Chairman, Hon. Paulinus Adinuba, called on parents to, in spite of any difficulty, not use the money given for any other purpose except for the school it is meant for.

It was gathered that 121,000 Naira was given to each of the 83 students and two students (Maura Dorothy Anozie and Lawrence Chiekezie) were given 270,600 and 141,400 Naira respectively for their academic performance.

The event, which took place at St. Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, Awka, was organized by the Justice for Peace and Development Caritas (JDPC) and was attended by parents and beneficiary students from different schools.

In their separate remarks, some beneficiaries, including Ibekwe Chioma from Amaenyi Secondary School, Awka, Kizito Ebele from Community Secondary School, Obelendu, Lawrence Uchechukwu Chiekezie from St. Michael’s Comprehensive Secondary School, Nimo, and Pamela Chikerem Onwuka from Fr. Tansi Memorial Secondary School, Akpu, all appreciated the Bishop for his kind gesture and promised to improve in their academics so as to be shining lights to others.

Highlights of the event included the presentation of cash to the parents of the beneficiaries and group photographs.

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