7th September 2017 Abuja, Nigeria
Chevening in Nigeria – A Programme Officer’s Perspective
I took up the Chevening portfolio in September 2015, a decision I have never regretted making. My passion for Chevening is so intense; I’m often asked if I’m an alumnus. Saddled with the task of administering and promoting this programme year-round in Nigeria, I find myself selling an opportunity that I know is absolutely priceless but off limits for me (ethical reasons). However, I derive great satisfaction from co-ordinating application reviews and interviews – though stressful, with a great need for planning, organisation and attention to details; it is indeed a greatly inspiring and interesting process. Interviews are by far my best part of this portfolio, providing an opportunity to listen and learn from exceptional young Nigerians spanning various fields, which inspires me to continuously challenge myself and discover new possibilities.
I recently got a chance to meet with the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson MP; during his recent visit to Nigeria – and the most memorable thing was how much he gushed about Chevening and its impact. The fact that a senior minister in London recognises the work I and colleagues collectively do to push Chevening in Nigeria is enough motivation to continue to strive for excellence in the advocacy for quality education and global citizenship, through Chevening.
High application numbers have not really been a problem for Nigeria; in fact, since 2015, Nigeria has consecutively recorded the highest number of applications globally – from 3,665 to 6,000 eligible applications for 2017/18. Instead, the focus is on the quality of applications – majority of which I must confess, hasn’t been too great. Nigerians are highly intelligent, very creative and innovative and a high number meet the eligibility requirements; however, for a global competition, writing and presentation skills have been fairly poor. A number of deserving candidates have missed the Chevening opportunity solely because of poorly written applications others were unable to make it past the interview stage due to poor communication skills. Perhaps this is as a result of limited exposure to soft skills, such as writing and effective communications skills, required to excel in the application and interviewing process. But, one thing is certain, there is a strong need to educate young Nigerians on essay writing, compelling story-telling and answering competency-based questions at interviews. In the last two years, I have focused more on hosting workshops for target groups to address these areas of need. Results have been quite positive and I intend to take it a step further this year by collaborating with relevant organisations and influencers; using a combination live workshops, traditional and social media channels to spread the word on Chevening.
Every year, I organise pre-departure briefings and award presentations for new scholars in Lagos and Abuja. These events are always quite memorable and this year’s was not an exception. Symbolising the beginning and end of Chevening cycles; they are an opportunity for staff and alumni to merry with successful scholars, who once sat nervously on the opposite side of our interview tables. Personally, I often feel like these new scholars are my babies – as I regularly receive daily enquiries from anxiety-filled adults, ranging from visa to travel concerns. The numerous calls and long emails can be quite draining, but like a mama-bear at the 2017 pre-departure events; I felt very fulfilled seeing the happy faces of 2017-18 scholars, expectant and filled with excitement about new life-changing experiences in the UK. Who wouldn’t be? Out of 6000 Nigerians who started the race in 2016, these 43 exceptional individuals made it to the finish line and are finally about to live their dreams of a UK graduate study and a truly global experience.
After such an intense phase of sifting and reviewing applications, co-ordinating interviews and preparing new scholars for the UK, I wish there would be a one-month cool-off period to catch my breath. Unfortunately, they say rest is for the weak! – Promotions for the 2018/19 application cycle start even before the new scholars depart Nigeria. This year, I’m working to promote Chevening as an inclusive and fair competition for rising young Nigerian leaders – with an aim to increase the number of awards to women, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and other disadvantaged groups. For effective life-long engagement with alumni, I’m also keen to align majority of Chevening awards with the priority areas of Chevening in Nigeria (Security, Prosperity, Good Governance, Science & Innovation and Energy/Power Generation).
Are you yearning for world-class education, global citizenship values, and passionate about leading developmental change in Nigeria? Do you know someone deserving of the Chevening opportunity? Please visit and share – www.chevening.org/nigeria