Club unlocks scholarship opportunities for achievers

Back in 2019, Muhammad Bashir Shuaib, at present a third-year student of agriculture at Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto (UDUS) in Nigeria, got excited about his Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGP) after his first year of study. He expected his academic performance to earn him a scholarship easily.

Intimated into the scholarship world by his friends at other institutions, Bashir acted, keeping in mind the few tips acquaintances shared about how to apply and the general knowledge he had gained about the topic.

“I was very happy with my [CGP] results and sensed I could use my academic feat to [apply for and] obtain scholarships,” Shuaib recalls.

“When I heard there was an opportunity, I got links from my friends and applied. I had limited information about how to do it well,” he told University World News.

Consequently, all he actually knew was how to submit applications. The outcome was multiple rejections.

But his story changed when he joined UDUS Scholars’ Forum (USF), a student club that helps its members with information about life-changing academic and development chances.

UDUS Scholars’ Forum

The club facilitates fellowship, internship and scholarship opportunities, and professional certification while training members in academic writing including research, resume, CV, cover letter and statements of purpose writing, leadership and interviewing skills as well as global networking, among others.

“By joining the USF, I got more information and details on different opportunities. USF bridged the gap with so much information I never thought I could have access to,” he said.

“With what I learned, I gained an opportunity with Young Professionals for Agricultural Development as a country representative, one of the two representatives in Nigeria,” he told University World News, adding that it is a volunteer position with monetary benefits.

In this position, Shuaib has been charged with implementing activities to address the declining interest in agriculture and food systems among young people of the country and Africa as a region, promote sustainable food production and agriculture and collaborate with youth-led and non-governmental organisations to ensure sustainable food production – a crucial element of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Thriving in inaccessible communities

The USF operates at UDUS, a second-generation public university in Nigeria established in 1975 whose alumni are leaders and policymakers within and outside Nigeria.

Some of them include Executive Governor of Sokoto State Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the former speaker of the House of Representatives; Atiku Bagudu, the executive governor of Kebbi State; Abdulrasheed Bawa, the executive chairman of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission; Mahmood Yakubu, an academic and current chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission; Abubakar Malami, minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation; Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, the president of the 74th United Nations General Assembly and Nigerian ambassador to the United Nations and Isatou Touray, vice-president of the Gambia.

Named after a 19th-century revolutionary religious leader in West Africa and with ‘read’ as its motto, the citadel of learning is widely known for its academic excellence and moral uprightness.

But, despite these nomenclatures, the public’s expectations of its students getting access to and winning academic and development opportunities are exaggerated.

A considerable number of excellent underprivileged students who obtain high academic results are not aware of opportunities.

These include specific scholarships related to their courses of study meant for achieving students, and other general and national opportunities offered by the Federal Scholarship Board, or offered by corporate entities or foundations such as the Abdulkabir Aliu Foundation, Chevron, and Agbami scholarships and one offered by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, or NPDC/SEPLAT.

This state of affairs – the exclusion of students from opportunities – is due to the university’s geographical location in the North-west, the region with the highest illiteracy rate in Nigeria, and which is often overlooked by organisations and entities which have scholarships to offer.

Muhammad Adeyemi, from November 2021 the UDUS scholars’ forum’s pioneering convener, says the club seeks to institutionalise and domesticate access to opportunities in the region, noting that a constant proposition that “power is power but accessing and utilising relevant information is more powerful” keeps the club standing.

“USF, overall, serves as an incubation hub where the best brains are being nurtured to take deliberate actions on their personal development towards achieving their various targeted goals professionally,” he said. “The world is very competitive and young people from a developing country like Nigeria cannot fall behind.”

While Adeyemi told University World News that more than 50 members of the club have won scholarships and internship opportunities while a greater volume of them have bagged professional certification, he also noted that the club invites experts in relevant topics as speakers for its webinars.

The forum is 100% digital-based with a WhatsApp group for general discussion and Google Meet for webinars. More than 100 members are students from various academic disciplines.

More success stories

There are a couple of success stories from members of this club.

Like many others, Haleema Hamzah’s zeal to gain opportunities became true when she joined the club after negative stories about unsuccessful applications and rejections.

Hamzah recalled how her application to the NPDC/SEPLAT Scholarship and TOTAL Nigeria scholarship were not successful. But this changed.

“I was shortlisted for some fellowships like the Kectil Youth Leadership Programme, Awareness 360, and other professional certifications,” said the third-year biochemistry and molecular biology student, noting that she had a fair orientation about opportunities before being admitted into the forum.

In addition to her existing knowledge, she has been exposed to leadership training, ethics of networking, project management, effective communication skills, and many more. Hamzah told University World News that the credit for this development in her life is due to the club.

Ajibike Abdulbasit Abiodun is another beneficiary of the USF services. He had lost count of unsuccessful applications he submitted before he joined the club. His quest to win opportunities got more intense as soon as he joined the association.

Aside from the fact that the forum gave him his first win, he was successful in gaining many fellowships.

“I learned a lot from the forum. The art of drafting a CV and statement of purpose really helped me during my applications,” he noted, citing the Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship for Entrepreneurship 2023 and the 2022 Federal Scholarship Board awards as some of his USF-influenced wins.

Hunting for academic and development opportunities is a Herculean task for Jibril Ahmed, a third-year student of economics, as he fears rejection. “It was really tough,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed’s passion to acquire professional skills and certification related to his course of study is his driving force. With the rich insights and guidance from USF, he smiled at a win for the first time.

“I was able to overcome rejections through the knowledge gained from the club’s webinars. I will forever be grateful to the forum,” Ahmed told University World News. “I got Financial Modelling and Valuation Analyst and Business Intelligence and Data Analysis Certifications from the Corporate Finance Institute through the links sent to the group.”

Light at the end of the tunnel

Professor Yusuf Saidu, the university’s deputy vice-chancellor for research, innovation, and development, says the club instils hope in the minds of the students that success is assured through hard work and dedication.

“The forum helps the university community to progress as it benefits all stakeholders,” Saidu said. “It produces rare opportunities that ordinarily can’t be gained.”

The university’s Professorial Chair of Petroleum Chemistry and Chemical Technology and Director of Research, Innovation, and Development, Professor Aminu Muhammad Bayawa, commended the club, noting that the forum was the dream of the university as it champions the global relevance of the university and ensures the students get access to various opportunities.