When Emmanuelle Dankwa, a first class honours graduate of Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Ghana and recipient of the Rhodes Scholarships for West Africa 2018, received an email informing her that she had qualified for a Rhodes Scholarship, she was overjoyed. Similar to Dankwa, other natives of West Africa have been thrilled to take part in such international opportunities.
Dankwa said, “That fateful day – Saturday, 2 December 2017 – when the winner was to be announced, I could virtually hear my heart racing. The atmosphere in the room was very tense with 15 exceptional young people competing for one scholarship slot. Even after Mr Ike Chioke, the Rhodes National Secretary for West Africa, disclosed that there would be two scholarships, not one, the increased probability of each candidate emerging winner made little difference to our mood. Then I heard my name read out: I had been named Rhodes Scholar-elect alongside 24-year-old Nigerian doctor, Toluwalase Awoyemi, I was completely overwhelmed!”
To her, becoming a Rhodes scholar means being given a platform to make a significant, positive impact on the world.
“As one of the pioneer awardees of the Rhodes scholarships for West Africa, it also means blazing the trail for young people in the sub-region and beyond. I consider this an honour and a privilege, and I am determined to make the most of it,” she added.
Many of the beneficiaries, who were academically strong, enlightened and graduated at the top of their classes have since gone on to improve their communities. One of them is Prince Ike Chioke, the Group Managing Director of Afrinvest, a reputable asset and wealth management company.
The Rhodes Scholarships for West Africa Selection Committee recently announced the names of the two recipients of the 2023 scholarships.
Kelechi Chima, a medical doctor, and Samuel Adomako, Kwame Nkrumah University’s best law student, were chosen.
In addition to being a researcher and UI/UX designer, Chima, a 2021 graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is passionate about developing novel, long-lasting healthcare solutions for people in low- and middle-income countries. To improve Human Immunodeficiency Virus treatment and prevention outcomes among the youth in Sub-Saharan Africa, Chima founded Cancer Relief Africa and is working with international organisations.
In 2019, Adomako graduated from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and the Ghana School of Law as the Best Law Student. He has a burning desire to make a difference in society and is a natural educator and thought leader. He founded Osborns Legal Protendo, a non-governmental organisation that he co-leads, out of his passion for democratising legal services for those with limited financial resources.
The selection committee reported that Chima and Adomako won after a hot application process that started in June with more than 3,000 entries from all over West Africa. The final stage of the selection process was a Finalists’ Weekend in Lagos, where the committee physically interviewed 14 finalists, from which Chima and Adomako were declared winners.
The 2023 Selection Committee includes Fui Tsikata, Kobby Bentsi-Enchill, Dr Pascal Brenya (Ghana), Fatumata Soukouna-Coker (Liberia), Prof. Romuald Meango (Cameroon), Dr Andrew Nevin (Canada), Prof. Preye Fiebai, Dr Ebele Mbanugo, Dr Innocent Okpanum, Prof. Ifeoma, Nwoha, Prof. Yusuf Attahir Yusuf, Dr Abdullateef Bello, Prof. John Mawak (Nigeria), and Chioke, a non-voting member.
While we applaud the accomplishment of these young people, who have made West Africa proud, it is clear that, if given the chance, the sub-region can produce more Chimas and Adomakos. It has long produced two Rhodes scholars, yearly. However, by increasing the slots, more opportunities will be given to developing education in the sub-region.
Why West Africa?
Considered among the world’s most prestigious international scholarship programmes, the Rhodes Scholarship for West Africa was announced in 2017 and the first scholar arrived in October 2018.
According to studies, education in West Africa has grown dramatically over the last half-century. From 1970 to 2010, the percentage of children in the region, who completed primary school increased by nearly 50 per cent (from 46 per cent to 68 per cent). The proportion of children completing lower secondary school nearly doubled (from 22 per cent to 40 per cent).
Growth in developing countries has been particularly impressive in the last 20 years, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is evident in the delivery of consistent positive growth digits from an average yearly growth rate of 1.6 per cent to 4.5 per cent over the last two decades (World Development Indicators, 2016). This pattern can also be seen in West African countries, which have experienced an average yearly growth rate of 4.9 per cent over the last two decades. Indeed, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, and Burkina Faso are among the countries in the region that have experienced impressive and consistent positive yearly growth. In comparison to other developing economies, these countries have performed admirably in terms of maintaining high growth rates.
The human capital development of West African nations has seen some improvement. The success measured in terms of enrolment in schools is indicative of this. The region recently saw a significant increase in the number of students enrolled in primary and secondary schools. This also occurs during a period of rapid growth in the area, which sheds light on the level of investment in human capital there. The opportunity for citizens to participate in the growth process through their engagement in productive activities is made possible by the population’s greater accessibility to education.
Students in West Africa would have the chance to receive international education, preparing them for the global market, if there were more generous scholarships available.
There is no doubt that West Africa is one of the best places in the world to find people with these qualities because scholars are chosen based on their exceptional intellect, character, capacity for leadership and commitment to service. They are waiting for the dice to turn in their favour.
These people understand Mahatma Gandhi’s famous words, “To lose patience is to lose the battle.” As a result, they are watching for a chance to soar.
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