Tuesday, August 1, 2006
By: Julia N. Opoti
When a group of Nigerian engineers met in Minnesota about 23 years ago with a vision of networking amongst each other, none of them imagined the growth that would ensue in the years that followed. In his opening remarks, celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Association of Nigerians Engineers in Minnesota (ANEM), the chair, Mike Essien was proud to speak of the accomplishments that the organization has accomplished noting that Nigerians of all professions are welcome to join the association whose mission is to foster technical improvement in the Nigerian community.
The association offers scholarships to engineering students at St. Cloud State University and also organizes book drives for Nigerian universities in conjunction with Books for Africa and others. As many of the speakers at the event testified, ANEM has become a great networking tool for engineers, and Nigerian community.
During the 25th anniversary celebration held at a Bloomington hotel, a panel of speakers discussed the approaches to improving the university education infrastructure in Nigeria while tackling possible solutions. The participants acknowledged a need for Nigerians in the Diaspora to have a connection with Nigerian universities to foster relationships in a bid to build and improve infrastructure. Dr. Philip Udo-Inyang, a professor at Temple University, spent a year of his sabbatical at the University of Uyo in Northern Nigeria where he assisted in revising their Civil Engineering program. It is his hope that more programs at the universities in Nigeria will have their curricula revamped since they lack strong content.
Dr. Margaretmary Usoro, MERCK & Co called out to Nigerians in the Diaspora to help the education system in the smallest areas that they could. She has been consistent in donating books individually as well as through her employer, MERCK, to schools in Nigeria. She encouraged fellow Nigerians to reach out to their community since “a little goes a long way”.
Dr. Anthony I. Akubue, St. Cloud State University, while frustrated that the process of setting up correspondence programs with universities in Nigeria, was quick to note that all was not lost. As an educator, he strongly felt that the institutes of higher education in Nigeria need to interact more with the rest of the world to keep up to date on technology. He also noted that while it is important to educate the youth, it was equally important to have a conducive environment that fosters such learning. He cited examples where young students do not see the need to study since they could easily purchase a fake diploma on the streets. He said it is crucial to get rid of such sentiments.
Participants agreed that there was need to encourage talented students by offering them scholarships and an opportunity to advance their academic journey.
ANEM’s executive director, Mr. Austin Ihiekwe, fondly referred to as the elder, was proud to list some of the accomplishments of ANEM over its 25 years of existence. ANEM has shipped over 25,000 college level books to Universities of Jos, Plateau State, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, established an annual four-year engineering scholarship at Nnamdi Azikiew University, Awka, Anambra State and organized a professional seminar focusing on trade and development of Nigeria. Currently, ANEM is working with other universities in Nigeria to develop scholarship programs.
Other participants included, Susan Eshett, Mobil Producing Nigeria; Dr. Abel ‘Femi Adekola, University of Wisconsin-Stout; Professor Okechukwu Ukaga, University of Minnesota; Mr. Vincent Okonkwo who was the Master of Ceremonies.