How End-to-End Mentoring and Local Scholarships Helped Young Nigerians Get Fully Funded Scholarships Abroad

Despite the lack of capital to achieve this, among other challenges, many Nigerians continue to seek the proverbial Golden Fleece abroad. IFEDAYO OGUNYEMI reports how an NGO is helping young Nigerian graduates get fully funded scholarships at foreign universities.

After Joy Amadi became the top graduating student in the 2018/19 Federal University convocation, Lokoja, her dream of studying further abroad remained in limbo.

According to the International Consultants for Education and Fairs (ICEF) monitor, around 100,000 Nigerian students were enrolled abroad in 2020 despite the challenges they faced. ICEF also noted that Nigeria has become one of the most sought-after markets for student recruiters in major destination countries due to its high youth demographics and growing middle class.

But not everyone can join thousands of Nigerians studying abroad due to lack of funds to carry out the process and financing such high cost programs among other challenges such as macroeconomic trends, monetary policies, ease and speed of visas. application processes and availability of post-study residency permits.

“But I didn’t give up”

“I was unsure about going to school abroad because there were no funds to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam, pay for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE ) and application fees. But I didn’t give up,” said Joy Amadi, who went on to earn seven fully-funded doctoral scholarships at US schools. Director.

The first-class chemistry graduate, who has applied to 15 schools in the United States and Canada since 2021, is almost certain she will pursue a doctoral program in organic synthesis at the University of Delaware.

“When I return to Nigeria, I will be able to take up teaching and research positions in academia while collaborating with industries and research institutes to help ensure that diseases labeled as incurable become curable,” she said.

To achieve this supreme desire, Amadi was, in 2021, selected by a non-governmental organization, the iScholar Initiative (iSI) to benefit from its scholarships for graduate examinations. The scholarships cover the payment of standardized test fees required for graduate study and predetermined application fees for graduate studies, including the GRE and TOEFL.

The Imo State native noted that “iSI paid for my TOEFL and GRE exams, I wrote them and passed them.”

How I let my months old daughter take exams

Among the 50 Nigerians who benefited from the iSI Fellowship and Mentorship Program in 2021 is a 30-year-old mother, Tosin Akintunde. His constraint was mainly the lack of funds to continue his studies abroad until the iSI covers the cost of his tests.

The Industrial Production Engineering graduate from the University of Ibadan (UI) has depended on the success of securing four fully-funded scholarship offers out of five applications made on her support system.

“My husband has been very supportive of me. My baby was barely three months old when I applied for the iSI application. While I was writing my TOEFL and GRE exams, we were practically reading together. She was tearing up my books and all that. Before her first birthday, I had to leave her with someone all day to go and take my exam,” noted Akintunde, who completed her undergraduate program in 2016.

She said Director that: “iSI held my hand the whole way. We were assigned mentors who followed our interactions with professors to tell them about our interests. You can always contact one of the mentors to ask questions, even if they haven’t been assigned to you. They encouraged us through the refusals.

“Foreign schools are not particular to your grades but to your research experience”

This kind of mentorship and encouragement has also proven useful for 24-year-old Oluwatobi Ogundepo, who graduated with a second-class degree (upper division) in microbiology from the University of Lagos. His situation has challenged the myth that only first-class graduates can benefit from international graduate programs.

A cross section of iScholar Initiative scholarship recipients at a recent meeting held in Ikeja, Lagos State. PHOTO: Ifedayo Ogunyemi

“These graduate programs are not about what you got like they are in Nigeria,” he said. “They are particularly attentive to your research experience and what you want to do with such an experience.”

At Louisiana State University in Shreveport, where he was offered a fully-funded doctoral admission, Ogundepo’s research will focus on gene expression and regulation. He thanked the iSI for providing a starting platform.

The iSI was founded as an NGO in the United States and Nigeria in 2019 by Victor Ogunmola to expand overseas opportunities for more potential and motivated scholars across Nigeria.

Prior to the founding of the NGO, Ogunmola had worked on a farm in order to stay afloat in school. His career trajectory changed after he got a graduate scholarship abroad. His past struggles and this scholarship have motivated him to help other Nigerians seeking educational opportunities abroad.

Since 2019, iSI has awarded scholarships with an investment of approximately $80,000 (N33.3 million) in payments for standardized graduate school tests and application fees for 120 Nigerians who have been able to access more than 10 million dollars (4,157 billion naira) in university scholarships. globally.

“It’s definitely a return on investment (ROI) that we can be proud of,” Ogunmola said.


Previous recipients of the program, according to Ogunmola, have written a book for use by thousands of prospective scholars seeking graduate program opportunities. He added that “we are also inspired by the dynamism of our academics. They started paying forward.

By September 2022, approximately 60 beneficiaries of the 2021 cohort program will be in the United States and Canada to continue their studies.

Rejected two offers of admission in 2020 compared to eight in 2021

Prior to his selection by the iSI, Adewale Babatunde, 25, a graduate of the University of Lagos, had received two offers to study petroleum engineering at two Texas universities in 2020, but his interests in semiconductor nanomaterials – a Renewable Energy Sub-section – have been expecting to reapply for the Fall 2022 cycle in 2021.

“I increased the number of schools I applied to from five in 2020 to 13 schools in 2021. The result is now eight fully-funded offers of admission, including one from an Ivy League school, l ‘Cornell University,’ he said. Director.

According to him, iSI creates an investment in the future and dreams of young people who aspire to contribute to the development of the country through research and higher education.

Speaking about the iSI scholarship process, a partner and mentor in the initiative, Olatunji Fagbola, said, “iSI will review your credentials and match you with mentors because before you can access these opportunities, you need a holistic support system that involves resources, information, mentoring, funding.

While berating the 2021 beneficiaries at a meeting for scholars in Ikeja, Lagos State, iSI Board Member Ms. Iyabode Attah urged them not to devalue Nigeria abroad despite the challenges facing the country, noting that each country has its own problems and challenges.

“Even if people of this generation do not say anything good about this country, those who come from humble backgrounds are already doing great things. This shows that my perception of this country is correct. In 10 years or less you will see the value they will bring to this country,” said the retired engineer.

His statement bolsters the plans of Ebenezer Akinbobola, 26, who graduated as part of the top two percent in his department at Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) in 2019. the University of Michigan offered him admission with the assurance of funding.

“When I finish my PhD program in hydrological sciences, I want to come back to the country to have an impact in this sector and not only through NIMASA (where I currently work) but also through other agencies,” he said. -he declares. Director. Akinbobola’s determination was based on an illness he suffered as a teenager from drinking contaminated water.

In his address at the event, the NGO’s founder and president, Ogunmola, noted that the opportunities provided to these scholars would not have been possible without the support of more than 140 individual partners. The organization’s biggest challenge is to secure more funding from individuals and corporate partners/donors.

“Our stakeholders are united by a common passion. This passion builds and empowers the next generation of leaders for global development in Africa. Without our shared passion for the career growth of self-driven and innovative i-Sholars, we would not have been here,” said Ogunmola.

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