A fully funded opportunity to undertake a Masters programme in Public Policy at Oxford University in the UK in the 2018/19 academic session is dangling before “exceptionally intelligent graduates” from Nigeria and Ghana. The deadline for submission of application for the programme offered at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford is October 2nd, 2017. The African Initiative for Governance, (AIG) funding the scholarship expects beneficiaries to return to their home countries and deploy their knowledge as change agents.
Those who brave the tough conditions they have set will enjoy full scholarship which means they would have nothing to worry as far as tuition, accommodation and living expenses are concerned. But, apart from being intelligent and being citizens of Nigeria, potential beneficiaries must be between the age of 25 to 35 years; have achieved an academic standing a First Class or Second Class Upper status in their First degree. For any such potential beneficiary who studied in the United States, the minimum in Grade Point Average, (GPA) must be 3.7 out of 4.0.
There are other non-empirical criteria such as strong commitment to public service and a willingness to work for a fixed number of years in the public sector of one’s home country, demonstrated leadership and “impeccable moral character”. Other elements that would come in at a later stage of the process includes supply of an applicant’s Curriculum Vitae, full academic transcript, four referees who have no personal relationship with the applicant and a personal essay serving as a covering note.
Although the criteria look tough, Intervention hopes that those within the discipline and age bracket to benefit are not intimidated either by the criteria or by the name of the university. Those who may not be very clear about the language or meaning of some of the criteria might wish to visit www.opportunitiesforafricans.com/africa-initiative-for-governance-aig-scholarships-20182019-for-study-in-the-university-of-oxford-uk-fully-funded or even contact national leaders of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) in the case of Nigeria for clarifications. ASUU national leaders are aware of this programme and are asking potential beneficiaries to apply. Some ASUU leaders have recently been to Oxford within a particular framework.
Those who miss the Oxford opportunity for whatever reasons do have an alternative in the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship application which commences soon under the “Young African Leaders Initiative”. The fellowship advertised as a merit-based open competition is open to those between the ages of 25 and 35 at the time of application submission, with provisions for those described as exceptional applicants younger than 25. Applicants must not be United States citizens or permanent residents of the United States, be eligible to receive a United States J-1 visa, are proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English and must come be a citizen and resident of one of the following countries: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Other but mainly normative criteria being sought are proven record of leadership and accomplishment in public service, business and entrepreneurship, or civic engagement; demonstrated commitment to public or community service, volunteerism, or mentorship; ability to work cooperatively in diverse groups and respect the opinions of others; strong social and communication skills; a positive attitude; demonstrated knowledge, interest and professional experience in the sector/track selected as well as commitment to return to Africa and apply leadership skills and training to benefit the applicant’s country and/or community upon return home.
The U.S. Department of State which will verify all information supplied by applicants after the deadline and interview them in U.S. embassies or consulates in their home countries further guarantees that there would be no discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Information that applicants would supply will include questions regarding professional and academic experience cum educational background; honors and awards received; extracurricular and volunteer activities; English language proficiency; a résumé (with dated educational and professional background); personal information (name, address, phone, email, country of citizenship) and additional but optional elements such as letters of recommendation or university transcripts.
The statement did not declare when exactly this opens, meaning that those keen on it but not already familiar with the 4-year old programme may have to be on the watch out or visit the Young Africa Leadership Initiative, (YALI) website for details although such might not work for those in the rural areas. According to the YALI website, the Fellowship provided 1,000 young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. college or university with support for professional development after they return home in 2017 alone, 50 percent of them women.
The knowledge factor in balancing of power necessary for global justice and security has meant the necessity for paying attention to openings or opportunities as these by potential beneficiaries from Africa, notwithstanding the geopolitical connotations. This is besides the politics of knowledge production and the permeability globalisation has brought about, all of which makes intellectual insularity on grounds of race, religion, culture or nationalism unhelpful and unsustainable.