“We believe education is the bedrock of any society,” says Emeka Okwuosa, founder and trustee of the Sir Emeka Okwuosa Foundation (SEOF), CEO of Oilserv Limited, and proud father of Chizube, a TFS student in Level II. “Society cannot continue to be progressive, or to grow, if quality education is absent, education that also evolves positively because what you're studying today will not be exactly what you will study in 20 years.”
It is that fundamental belief in the power of education to improve lives and communities that led Emeka and his wife, Ifeoma Okwuosa, to become the first donors to the TFS Entrance Scholarship Program. Unbeknownst to them, the first recipient, Tomi (Oluwatomilayo) Shittu, would be originally from Nigeria, their home country, a happy coincidence. Or perhaps it was fate?
Tomi’s journey at TFS began almost by accident. She and her mother were on their way to a nearby school to be interviewed for entry into a pool of scholarship applicants when an unexpected turn brought them to TFS’ Senior School. In the end, Tomi was offered scholarships at both schools. She chose TFS and started in Grade 7 at the school’s West Campus, despite having never learned French.
“The first week I was crying and so frustrated,” says Tomi. Her teacher told her not to worry and assured her they’d have her speaking French soon enough. And she was right. Tomi found her stride and later transitioned seamlessly into Level I at the Senior School. She became second chair for the trumpet as part of the school’s Wind Ensemble after hearing them play Danzon No.2 by Arturo Marquez.
“It was so powerful,” Tomi recalls. “I said to myself that I wanted to do this. Every time I listen to it to this day, it still makes me happy.” In addition to finding joy in music, Tomi also discovered a love of math and science. By her own admission, she once struggled with the subjects, but learned to “do different things” through studying computer science. It is that spirit and ability to rise to challenges that make Tomi an exemplary model of TFS’ success in contributing to the development of well-rounded citizens. After graduating in 2022, Tomi opted to study engineering at the University of British Columbia.
Tomi credits the International Baccalaureate’s Diploma Program with preparing her well for university. Thanks to the program “I know how to get things done,” she says. Tomi is also tremendously grateful for the generosity of the Okwuosas, stating how scholarships like the one the family established “change a person’s life,” adding, “I am so proud of what I have achieved. I was included in everything at TFS, I never felt left out. I always felt that I had that support. So for any students out there who are thinking about this scholarship, I say, ‘Apply, apply!’”
“We didn't know who the scholarship was going to go to,” explains Ifeoma. “Our only interest was in helping someone in need. It was much later that we found out the recipient was Nigerian and I had the opportunity to meet her,” she adds. “It was a very good meeting. You could see this very appreciative, confident young woman - who didn't speak a word of French when she came in - who soaked in everything that TFS had to offer. Then to see her join university and thrive there as well? I was really impressed. I have no doubt that she's going to do great things in the future, and be able to give back to society.”
Changing lives by providing access to opportunities and education is nothing new for the Okwuosas. Through SEOF and personal philanthropic and entrepreneurial endeavors, the family has built schools and infrastructure, provided scholarships, improved socioeconomic conditions, food security, and healthcare in Nigeria and different parts of the world for over 30 years.
“Our understanding of life and the world is basically how do you make sure that you have something to get better? The answer is education,” says Emeka. That’s why, for the Okwuosas, creating a scholarship like the one Tomi received is “something we do as a matter of what we believe in,” he adds. “So when we had this opportunity, we felt like trying to contribute to help somebody in need. Hearing the result today, we are extremely pleased because, it is one thing to try to help somebody, it is another for that person to actually take it up and succeed.”