20yrs old Ghanaian Statistician, Emmanuelle Dankwa, and 24yrs old Nigerian Doctor, Toluwalase Awoyemi, have emerged winners of the 2018 Rhodes Scholarships for West Africa.
The duo will be joining 93 other “scholar-elects” from around the world to commence studies at the prestigious University of Oxford, United Kingdom in October next year.Dankwa and Awoyemi came out tops among the 15 most qualified candidates that made the final shortlist. A total of 2,948 applications were received from intending scholars across the region out of which 244 that graduated with a First Class degree or its equivalent made it to the next round. Through further screening and in-person interviews the number was eventually scaled down to 15.
Rhodes Scholars are chosen on the basis of the criteria set down in the Will of Cecil John Rhodes, who established the scholarships in 1903. Academic excellence is a major prerequisite for selection but it is only a threshold condition. Other important criteria include moral force of character, commitment to service and the instinct to lead.
“It was a keenly contested award,” said Ndidi Nwuneli, Founder of Leap Africa and a member of the West Africa Selection Committee. “All fifteen finalists were remarkably brilliant with outstanding individual qualities but we could only select two. For Emmanuelle and Toluwalase, this is an award well deserved, and we have no doubt that they will go on to excel in their chosen field of study and do the continent proud.”
Sangu Delle, Chairman of Golden Palms Investments Corporation (GPI) and also a member of the Selection Committee noted: “Originally, the West African Scholarship for 2018 was intended for one scholar. However, with the exceptional brilliance demonstrated by all the finalists, it was decided that two scholars will be selected but this did not make the job any less difficult for the Selection Committee.”
Dankwa graduated with First Class Honours in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Ghana in July 2017, and currently serves as a Teaching Assistant at the Department of Statistics in the same institution. While an undergraduate she founded a plastic waste recycling advocacy group, which not only enlightened the university community on the benefits of recycling waste but was actively involved in collection and removal of plastic waste from the university campus through a partnership with the local government and some plastic recycling firms.
Awoyemi holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (M.B.B.S.) degree from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He graduated in August 2016 as the Best Medical Student in his set, and was a recipient of 19 prizes at the institution’s convocation ceremony. He is passionate about healthcare delivery in Nigeria, and as Programmes Director of CHECK – a non-governmental organisation involved in health education, screening and diagnosis – he has organised over 25 medical outreach programmes to undeserved areas and communities in Nigeria.
The Rhodes Scholarships cover all university and college fees for Dankwa and Awoyemi, a personal stipend for room and board, health insurance and travel, as well as the costs of the Rhodes Leadership Development Programme at Rhodes House. Depending on their course of study, the total value of the scholarship could range from £50,000 to £60,000 per annum, with the average tenure for a Rhodes Scholar being 3 years.
Awoyemi, who is opting for International Health and Tropical Medicine as his preferred course of study, said: “I am truly grateful to my alma mater, the University of Ibadan, for helping me develop into the scholar that I am, and to the Rhodes Trust for the opportunity to further my learning at the University of Oxford. I feel like the entire continent is looking up to me, and I promise to work very hard to maximize this opportunity for my development and for the good of our people.”
Next application opens on 1st June 2018 for the 2019 Scholarships.