Idowu Kunlere, i-Scholar Initiative -Scorecard Series XIII – After my MSc graduation a few years back, I set my sight on building a career in environmental protection with Nigeria’s apex environment watchdog. No honour is greater than the privilege of serving our people and ensuring Nigerians live in safe, healthy environment. So, I initially did not think much of immediately going for my Ph.D. as I felt there was still so much to be done, contributing to the tasks back home. In retrospect, I would say, back then, I did not know as much as I do now. But the intervening period has afforded me vintage understanding of Nigeria’s environmental and social challenges, approaches and policies as well as the privilege, in modest ways, of contributing my quota to the solutions we seek in environmental monitoring, water governance, waste management and climate resilience.
Last year, I decided to take it more seriously. I was ready to throw my hat into the ring and apply just the same way I had successfully assisted quite a number of people apply through Wastesmart Initiative, a community platform I started and served. But there was a serious problem. I was financially stretched at the time last year, no thanks to some excruciating administrative hiccups. Serving often comes at a cost sometimes. I remember I and some colleagues would fantasize about writing GRE, TOEFL and IELTS. Despite our anticipation and preparation, we could not raise the exam fees, but not because we did not desire to. Sadly, last year and till date, none of the other guys (all public servants) has been able to write any of the three exams because they could not raise the needed funds. I was able to write the GRE thanks to the “i-Scholar Initiative”. You could imagine my joy when I got an email from Uncle Victor informing me of my selection for the scholarship. I successfully wrote the GRE last November; the rest, like they say, is history.
In the past few weeks, I am grateful to have been selected for full and partial scholarships in Germany, South Africa and the US while some more decisions are still being expected. I should also add that there have been highs and lows, and some tough decisions have had to be made for the greater good. However, this feat would not have been possible without the support and push from the “i-Scholar Initiative”. I am most grateful for the support, selflessness and mentorship from Uncle Victor and Dr. Femi. I also deeply thank all the sponsors and partners of this project. It is a good investment.
Lastly, to young people reading this, dreams come true. But it is also important you set out early to pursue your dream as the bar usually gets higher as the years go by. But rest assured, at whatever point you are currently in your career, if you want it passionately enough, good things will come to you. I hope other young public servants desirous of excellence and better skills for bigger impact would also have this unique privilege. Like the “i-scholar Initiative”, this is one of the goals I am committing myself to; democratizing opportunities.