Mazeed Mukhtar Oyeleye writes,

The deadline was creeping in on Nimatallah Muhammad, and she was at sea, unable to tame her emotions. To think she will have to slug it out with other applicants, not only from Nigeria, but other African countries, made her heart palpitate. But as the clock tolled, she threw caution to the wind and dared to receive another ‘breakfast’. But it never came.


“I decided to be hopeful and wished for the best,” she described how she got past her moment of truth. She closed her eyes and took the decisive leap but little did she know she was taking the first step to making history.


May 18 was epochal for the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, (UDUS) community as Nimatallah, a 300-Level student at its Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, clinched the WAAW (Working to Advance Science and Technology Education for African Women) Foundation Scholarship.

After a five-month rigorous screening exercise, the foundation published the 24-man list of the 2022/23 awardees selected from a pool of 2095 entries it received from several institutions across 12 African countries. Behold! She, after interviewing for the award alongside 43 other shortlisted applicants, made the final cut.



WAAW Foundation College Scholarship

The foundation, birthed in 2007 by Dr Unoma Okorafor whilst a PhD student at the Texas A&M University, aims to ensure that as many women of African descent as possible are healthy, educated and inspired to participate in home and community building. This was Dr Okorafor’s drive to “increase the Pipeline of African Girls Engaged in STEM Education & Innovation”.


The foundation, in navigating towards achieving this mission, initiated the college scholarship to enable female college students in Africa to pursue their studies in a STEM-related course, with more freedom to focus on their academic goals.


Aiming to “increase the number of African women in STEM by 10%, and build female technology innovators who create 10,000 jobs to impact their communities” by 2025, the scholarship also avails recipients the opportunity to “give back to their communities and promote the engagement of women in STEM” by starting a STEM Outreach Chapter at their universities.


As news of her triumph filtered through the university community, rumours that she is the first to achieve this feat followed closely. “I don’t know of any other recipient from UDUS. So, the rumoured might be true,” she reacted to it.

Seeking confirmation, PEN PRESS got word from the Scholarship Programme Manager of the WAAW Foundation, Grace Oteh, that Nimatallah is indeed the very first Danfodite to win the college scholarship, which comes with a $500 cash prize.



“My dreams can be realized”


Speaking about achieving the feat that has been managed by only 113 other people, Nimatallah beamed, “I feel very grateful and inspired as [winning] this scholarship has given me hope that my dreams can be realized”.


“The application process was demanding and inspiring. I was required to write about five essays and also attend an interview, but I was happy about that because I was able to put all my thoughts and needs into writing while perfecting my writing skill,” she continued.


Looking back on her moment of truth, Nimatallah admitted that she had exhausted the funds she saved for school and the help that came from family members was not enough to fund her education.


“My biggest motivation is my zeal for education and my passion to make a change in my society. I had to look for a means to raise funds for my education, which was detrimental to my studies because I could not give full attention. I needed a stable means to fund my education and also a way to make an impact in the society,” she revealed to PEN PRESS.


“So, when my friend and colleague, Umar Faruq Amori, sent me the link for the WAAW Foundation Scholarship, and I went through it, I knew securing the scholarships will help solve, if not all, 70% of my [current] problems,” she explained how she transcended her fear of rejection.



Scaling a Bush of Thorns


Nimatallah encountered challenges in her quest to put her name and that of her school on the map. Getting a referee to complete her application was not easy for her and the screening required that she provided two referees; a professor or Head of Department from her current institution of study and another from an academic supervisor, advisor or mentor.


“I hadn’t gotten familiar with my lecturers yet, and it was even during the ASUU strike. So, I couldn’t meet anyone. I spoke with my guardian, Prof Alayande, who is a lecturer here in UDUS, at the faculty of Veterinary Medicine. He agreed to be my second referee and referred me to a Professor in my department. The Prof was very supportive. He did everything required as a referee seamlessly,” she recalled happily.


“I was also nervous about the interview. I spoke with Muhammad Adeyemi, the University Scholars’ Forum’s (USF) former convener, about it, and he gave me advice on how to go about it [the interview],” she added.



“Be the change you want to see”


Responding to what she would have told herself, and any Danfodites looking to follow in her footsteps, if she had a foresight of how her application for the WAAW Foundation Scholarship would turn out, she said, “My advice is that you should grab any opportunity you have to apply for any scholarship or internship. Do not be too lazy to apply, even if it will take you days or weeks. You never know which one will be positive”.


“Also, be ready to give back to the society. Be a change maker. Don’t overlook things just because it doesn’t affect you. Be the change you want to see. And stay close to God,” she concluded.

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