When the West African Examination Council (WAEC) released the 2016/2017 West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) results, Cynthia Chinaecherem Ali boasted the highest score at her school, Shalom Academy, Nsukka, in Enugu State.
Her performance was more than the best at her school. It was as good as it could get. She made nine A1s in all the nine subjects that she took in WASCE.
It was a feat that would make any parent proud. And Mr. and Mrs. Eliezer Ali were proud of their daughter for her accomplishment. But like many parents in Nigeria, they were also worried about how to support their daughter’s education moving forward.
Mr. Ali teaches English at Community Secondary School, Umuagama, Enugu Ezike in Igbo-Eze North local government area while his wife, Florence, is a civil servant who works as Assistant Chief Scientific Officer at district hospital, Enugu-Ezike. Together, they have eight children, three boys and five girls.
His first daughter, Nnenna Lynda is studying Environmental Science at Ebonyi State University. His first son, Kingsley Maduka is studying Medicine and Surgery at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) Enugu campus. And that is the same department that Cynthia Chinaecherem Ali is hoping to enroll in come next academic season. She already scored 266 in Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) which is enough to get her into Medicine and Surgery on merit.
Cynthia was born in 1999 while her mother was a student of Biochemistry at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. That was the same year that her father dropped out of his Master’s Degree program in linguistics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, because he could not handle the financial burden from associated with the added family responsibility.
Mr. Ali depends on his salary and that of his wife to take care of his big family. To supplement their meager income, he has a small backyard poultry farm.
“I laid a very good foundation for them,” Mr. Ali said, adding that he hired a teacher who gave his children extra lessons three days a week.
“Cynthia was more focused,” he said. “She is thorough in everything she does.”
After his first daughter, Lynda finished her senior secondary two (SS2), Mr. Ali had to withdraw her from Shalom Academy because he did not have enough money to pay for three of them in the same school. He told SaharaReporters that he was paying over N200, 000 a term for their education and at one point it was not possible to continue.
Mr. Ali’s fourth child is currently in SS1 at another private school that is less expensive. He had wanted to take him to Shalom Academy but could no longer afford it.
Cynthia took the JAMB examination while awaiting her WASCE results and scored 266. Even though her university of choice, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), has not published their primary list, her score is enough to get her into the department of medicine and surgery on merit. A year ago, her brother, Kingsley was admitted into UNN’s department of medicine and surgery on merit with a JAMB score of 275.
“I want the best education for Cynthia,” Mr. Eliezer Ali said. “If I can get assistance from government or philanthropists, I will so much appreciate that.”
Following social media stories of Cynthia’s feat and demands by Nigerians on social media for the government of Enugu State to come to the family’s assistance, representatives of Enugu State government have reached out to Mr. Ali. They informed him that the governor of Enugu State, Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, would like to meet him and his daughter. So far, no date has been fixed for that meeting.
Reacting to the story, social entrepreneur, Natasha Akpoti, recommended that "state governments should put in place an active scholarship system which would serve the gifted." Mrs. Akpoti, who has expressed interest in assisting the family stated, "Right now, the scholarship board serves only directors and other elites who don't need such assistance."
In the course of her education, Chinaecherem has won several awards, including the prestigious award from Mathematical Society of Nigeria. Her father hopes she wins the greatest award of her life - the support of governments and people of goodwill that will ensure that she continues her education.