When Folashade Adebayo, an award-winning Nigerian journalist and social entrepreneur, started her journalism career 14 years ago, little did she know that the pen could do much more than impact her immediate beat. More than a decade after, the consummate features writer, who has worked in some of the best newsrooms in the country, has found a piece of her entrepreneurial puzzle in providing free information and advisory services for brilliant but indigent students in Nigeria and other West African countries.
“I want to be part of the creative narrative that addresses manpower development in Africa. But honestly, this is a journey I never thought I would embark on. It is a venture fired by my personal experience as a 2017 British Chevening scholar,” she said.
Adebayo did not get to know about the Chevening scholarship until after two years of covering the education sector as a journalist.
She said, “I never heard of it before then. I eventually applied after a colleague sent it to my mail and was awarded the scholarship just after one attempt.
“That told me something: If I could be unaware of that opportunity despite my profession, then it would be the same for hundreds of other qualified professionals in Africa. I recognise that it was an awareness issue as much as it was an information gap.”
Ultimately, studying for a master’s degree in International Relations/International Law in the United Kingdom was an eye-opener for Adebayo, who then decided to start www.coursefunds.com, a website that scouts for funding opportunities across the world and bring them to the notice of Africans.
She said, “It is really an interesting world. And it can be amazing how a piece of information can bring monumental change beyond your personal space. Being a Chevening scholar is not less than a miracle because of its transformative power. You are able to assess your career independently and design practical ways to add value.
“This is done while you are working on an academic degree in a multicultural environment, which in itself opens you up to diverse opportunities you never thought existed.”
Adebayo said she had come across many school-based funding opportunities for Africans.
“Many were fully-funded but not as popular as Chevening, Commonwealth and some other global scholarships. These opportunities were tucked in faculty websites but existed all the same. Given the thousands of universities across the world, you can imagine how challenging finding these opportunities would be,’’ she added.
Months after starting www.coursefunds.com, Adebayo said her experience had been worth the while.
She noted that her web resource had come up with ways of overcoming the hurdles faced by persons seeking scholarship opportunities.
She said, “We need to understand that a whole lot goes into securing scholarship. It is certainly more than merely applying. You could be disappointed a few times but you must be willing to try again and/or expand your application territories.
“You must be willing to research how to put your personal statement and post-study essays together. We have published a number of articles that address these issues in the hope that it would boost the chances of African applicants.”
Adebayo highlighted some of the common mistakes made by scholarship applicants.
“The first would be treating scholarship opportunities with a pinch of salt. This manifests when you do not research the university you are applying to in order to understand its unique requirements,” she said.
She said she had spoken to a number of applicants who got the countries in which their universities were located wrong.
“I discovered that some applicants recycle personal statements and post-study essays. It is also important to start the application process early enough so that you can notify your referees on time. I would say to applicants not to give up even when they get rejection e-mails from schools or schemes,” she added.
She noted that entrepreneurship could be very challenging in the first few years of operation.
Adebayo, however, said her background as a media practitioner and scholarship winner had made the venture less of a war zone.
She attributed the ease of creating content to her in-depth knowledge of her field.
“We cannot take away that writing as a skill is the backbone of this venture. As a features writer of many years, I have been thankfully prepared for this role. I have also gone through the application, interview, scholarship and post-scholarship experience. So, I am familiar with the terrain and the frequently asked questions. This has helped a lot content-wise,’’ she said.
Despite being out of the newsroom for over a year, Adebayo is still passionate about journalism.
“Remember, once a journalist, always a journalist. I look forward to unfolding all my layers in whatever ways it serves my calling and the society. Being a journalist has been the giant boulder from which I view the world,” she said.