The UIMSA Central Welfare Committee Sets Up Welfare Fund

The total fees for an average medical student in the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan (COMUI), range from N135,000 to N170,000. This substantial amount often leads indigent students to seek alternative means to finance their education. There are scholarships from external bodies and some from within- the Sponsor A Student Program(SASP). While these targeted solutions help to reduce the number of UIMSAites in need, there remains a segment of students who are left without support. This problem statement was garnered from the President, Miss Omotola Odeleke, who also doubles as the Head of the Central Welfare Committee. 

During an interview with Miss Omotola, she said that this problem was one that she cared deeply about. Hence, she sought a solution to it. There are dire consequences when a student can’t pay any of their fees. This might mean that such students are not allowed to write their professional exam, or even if they do, the results are withheld. Her solution would swiftly meet the student’s needs at that point of distress. This birthed the UIMSA Welfare Fund. There were more details to be ironed out for the fund, and most importantly, the source of the fund. 

During the interview, we discussed the purpose of the fund. In her words, “It’s not just a fund, it’s the UIMSA Welfare fund. The purpose is to cater to some indigent members of the association for their fees. These include HPTL, tuition and others.” We identified that, while students need help with these fees, there are students who’d have paid these but need help in other areas like accommodation or even feeding. She admitted that she thought of this but the Welfare fund does not cater to that. She hopes the fund will eventually expand to cover all these areas, but currently, it solely assists students unable to afford their school fees. She admitted that she once tried to start a program for food packages for indigent students during exams but the funds generated were insufficient: “For that one, I tried to do it but the funds I got weren’t enough. We diverted it into taking exams packages(food) to the 100 level class during their first-semester exam”. 

It was finally time to disclose the source of the fund and the amount of money currently in the purse of the fund. She revealed that “The money is N600,000, for now, and it came from visits to a personal connection that I got to know- it’s just one person, a senior colleague who is not an alumnus. I pitched the story about UIMSAites in need, especially from the class writing the exams. I received one or two messages about people needing funds for their HPTL. I also noticed people around me trying to sort out Hptl”. She went on to describe the story of her pitch to the chief sponsor. The Chief sponsor promised to speak with other people whose contacts he shared with her. She said the follow-up started from that. 

She recounts her attempt with the Nigerian Medical Association Oyo Chapter (NMA Oyo). In her words: “The initial attempt I made was to NMA Oyo. That one was … hm, it wasn’t successful. Although, we got some money. This was due to resistance from some alumni in quotes. They raised questions like ‘What about the SASP from college?’ ‘Why is UIMSA still raising money?’”

This directed our discussion to the difference between this Welfare Fund and SASP. She stated that the Welfare Fund was borne out of a need to augment SASP. She stated that there was still a gap that SASP had because even SASP was still in need of money. “It can’t cater to the large bulk of students who are in need, effectively. I remember referring some students to SASP last year and they could not even take their applications because they had a lot of pending applications that were yet to be attended to and they were still looking for money to fund. I realized that we needed to take an active role as UIMSA to help her students”. She went on to say that the UIMSA Welfare Fund was going to be in conjunction with SASP. She said that this was a unanimous decision from the welfare committee because they didn’t want to put an extra burden on UIMSAites to manage the Welfare Fund. “They have the structure already, they have how these funds can be disbursed, how reports are presented. So we should work with them

We further discussed the structure and she gave a hint on how it would work with SASP: “You know how the SASP has all the different scholarships under it, like the IMSG scholarship. So we’ll just have the UIMSA welfare fund listed under it”. They then needed to find a way for the Welfare Fund to be managed, grown and disbursed. She explained this briefly by saying “The current structure is one where it is managed by the Central UIMSA Welfare committee. The committee is headed by the president and other members include the class reps from other classes, the senate president, congress chancellor, Dokita Editorial Board and one other executive”. 

The interview took an interesting turn when we had to discuss how regularly the funds would be disbursed and if it was a one-off thing or if students who got the funds once would get it till the end of their education. “The UIMSA Welfare Committee had a meeting and we’ve met the Welfare Committee of the college. She made me know that it was just a case where the sponsors would provide the money and tell SASP who it should be for. We get to decide who the money goes to. We also set the criteria. I hope that future Presidents put in their all to ensure that this continues.” She added that the Welfare Fund was going to be a one-off thing. Students would apply for it in their time of need and calls for applications would be made every year. 

We reckon that the Welfare fund is indeed an innovative approach and as such, its continuity is of paramount importance. Especially seeing as the current tenure would end in a couple of weeks. We discussed her plans to ensure continuity and she responded by saying: “That is why I didn’t make it a president project, I made it a welfare committee project. That way I had the class reps from all classes in it, even from the 100-level class. So that way, everyone knows that there is something that we can do with this committee. It’s not just monthly check-ins. I also have a list of these sponsors that I will be willing to pass down to the next president. So, my aim is that these people will become regular recipients of the UIMSA Executive Council courtesy visits. Therefore, it won’t be difficult to reach out to them for the project subsequently. We’re hoping that with this,  they can continue to connect us to other people and increase the network. This is not such a hard thing to sell. I’m very positive that subsequent tenures can do even more. The first contact that I pitched this to also mentioned something about the next president. So all they need to do is establish first contact with him”. 

On the Method of Application, the UIMSA Press gleaned that it would be through SASP because the president wouldn’t want to delay the process by setting up the structure or putting more burden on students. In her words; “college has the structure, UIMSA doesn’t. I didn’t want to create conflicting bias within UIMSA and between UIMSA and the college. I wanted it to be as plain as possible that uimsa was not trying to take the place of the college. Make it clear that all we’re doing is just taking a more active role in helping our members. Applications will be through the SASP. The welfare committee has decided on the criterion. UIMSA will get the final say to approve the beneficiaries.”

The UIMSA Welfare Fund, a brainchild of Miss Omotola Odeleke, would start very soon. The actual date wasn’t stated but she said “The money should go to ICOMAA this week and then we send out a call for applications. There may be bureaucracy on their end but UIMSA is ready to disburse”. 

We took the chance to ask if there were any other legacies to expect from Ms Omotola. She made it known that there was one more cat that she wasn’t ready to let out of the bag. But she did give a hint that we should expect a Capital project that she hopes to finish within the next two weeks. 

The UIMSA Welfare Fund is set to fill a gap and make schooling much easier for UIMSAites. We are hoping that it is executed with next to no hitch and that it continues to expand. 

Afeezah Wojuade


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