He never dreamt that in this life, he would leave the shores of this country to study, even though he has always dreamt, from childhood, to study either in USA or China. He admits that because of his humble background, there was no way he would have been able to realise that ambition. That is why Perewari Victor Pere, an Ijaw boy from Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government, is grateful to Henry Seriake Dickson, for giving expression to his dream. It was Dickson's government that awarded him the scholarship that enabled him study computer science at the Lincoln University, USA. He graduated as the best.
Pere told TNN that “as a kid, I always had the dream of schooling in the US or China. It was something I prayed about for years even before I left secondary school. So it was a very big dream but one that seemed farther at the passing of each day. Not in a million years. I came from a very humble background where food was hard to come by, many days. It's interesting all of this happened. Life is much different now, but it wasn't like this. It was very, very difficult and many times my parents paid my school fees late. So with God it would've been possible through a miracle, and this I believe was that miracle. It's all a miracle from God.
I'm grateful to the governor of Bayelsa State, His Excellency, Honourable Henry Seriake Dickson and the Bayelsa State government. I'm grateful to my parents and siblings. Their support throughout the process was immense. Above all, I’m grateful to God. Without Him, this would not have been possible. I'm very grateful to Him.”
How did Pere get to know about Lincoln University in the first place? Hear him: “I got to learn about the Lincoln scholarship opportunity on the last day of application. It was tense but I managed to get my application through. I went to Peace Park on the day of the exam. I believe there were about 6,000 students present for the exam. The venue got too little for everyone so they moved us to Samson Siasia Stadium. That was where we wrote the exam. Though stipulated for 7am, we started around 7pm. We finished the exam and probably a week or so later, the results were published. I topped my LGA in that round and so was selected among several other students.
“I'm not sure of the exact figure, but I guess between 100 and 400 students. After then, we went on for the next stage. Less I forget, the first stage was an English exam and the next one was a Math exam. Two professors came from Lincoln University and were also part of the process. After that exam, only about 40 - 100 students were selected for the interview. That was the final and last stage of the scholarship process. Probably a week later or more, the final list was out and I was selected as one of the 16 participants. Well, the idea was to select one boy and one girl from each of the eight local government areas in the state. That made a total of 16 students. I believe the state asked to send more than the initially stipulated figure, so we ended up a total of 21 students.”
So how did your parents receive the news of your scholarship and then the graduation?
They were beyond glad. They were very grateful to God. The whole family has been in joy to date.
Tell me about the feeling you had, at that time that you were about to board the plane and move to Lincoln.
It was like a dream. Literally. We had our flight cancelled a couple of times because of the snow storms and all. So I kept my cool even to that date. But when I walked up the plane, I kept telling myself, Pere it's happening. It was so unbelievable. First time I was leaving the country. It was a lot of first times for me. But the feeling was unforgettable.
What were the things running through your mind?
Life. All I had been through. Dreams that looked like they would never come to pass. Prayers I felt were never going to be answered. A life I thought I would never have and probably struggle in Nigeria. It was a solution to so many things. For me, it was like writing a new script. I kept thinking if it was real. If I had woken up at that point, I wouldn't have doubted it was just a dream. I really hadn't been anywhere else in my life. Plus I was also struggling academically and all. So it was so much peace all over me. Peace and uncontrollable excitement
When you landed at Lincoln, how was it? Describe your first one week there
It was very cold. We got right into the peak of the winter season. We got in at night and resumed class the next morning. We had no break whatsoever considering we had already missed about seven weeks of classes. We needed to catch up.
The first week was very challenging, getting used to new things and systems. The most challenging thing was the food. Considering we didn't know the names of some of their foods and how they taste, it became a guess work thing. My guesses were terrible as I almost threw up once. So I believe I ate bread that whole week.
But as time went on, we adjusted to the system. Not necessarily eating all their foods, but we got used to most things.
What do you think of the governor's investments in education?
It's immense. In truth, I wasn't so much aware of what his take on education was, considering I'd been out of the country for a few years. But seeing what he has done, it's incredible. It's very true that education isn't like any other sector. It's one that not only depends on investments but also a sound process with a sustainable means. I think the government is approaching this in a very sound way. To the best of my knowledge, seeing what he has done with the secondary education sector as well as the new University of Africa is awesome. Not so many governors have such vision but he has chased his well.
And the best part of education is that it stays long after you're gone. Take for example, he sent my colleagues and I to the US and spent millions of dollars for our education. Today, a few of us are back to the state and have started our own software company, to which the governor has still given us support. It's a long lasting investment and one that should be very appreciated across the state. I came back to Nigeria amid several job offers and opportunities to further my studies was a big statement of intent to give back. I've started a software company with five other of my colleagues. It's an education technology company named Afridash.
We are located in Bayelsa and just started two programmes in the company. On top of that, we've offered some specs to academic institutions in the state for a few years. These are just a few of the things we're doing. We're very young and have a very bright future ahead of us and thus we look forward to being one of the biggest companies, if not the biggest company in Africa.