Nigerian social entrepreneur Hammed Alabi, a two time author, an SDGs Youth Champion, and an educator with about 12 years of active citizenship and volunteering experience. He completed his master’s degree in Africa and International Development at the University of Edinburgh through the Mastercard Foundation Scholarship.
He currently works as the Educational Mentoring Coordinator at Refugee Education (UK), where he currently manages the mentoring hub in West London connecting young refugees/asylum seekers with mentors for educational support.
Exclusive Interview with Hammed Alabi
Since our previous interview, we’ve followed recent developments in what you have contributed in the lives of people.
Tell us a bit more about the Nigerian student from Ibadan, and how you were able to raise funds for his education?
His name is Alli Ajagbe. He is a young and brilliant teenager with promising talents for technology and development. I first met him at the Steering for Greatness Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Technology Boot camp in Ibadan, where I had the opportunity of working with him as a mentor.
I admire Alli’s curiosity and passion for personal development. It was so inspiring to read how he scaled his A-Levels and got himself a scholarship into the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in South Africa for a pre-university programme. After completing the programme, he returned to Nigeria and applied for numerous scholarships for his bachelor’s degree but only got funding to study B. Tech Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science from Plaksha University in India. His scholarship covered accommodation, tuition and living expenses but his flight cost was not covered.
So, he reached out to me for a donation. I noticed there was no way my donation could cover his flight fee and instead, I thought of creating a GoFundMe and came up with a story narrative based on what I knew about him. We set a target of £1500 knowing that the cost of flight increases every day. We also only had 7 days for his resumption and we were both sharing and telling the story.
Leveraging on our network, we raised about 1.1 million+ in Naira (£1622). We raised above what we planned for. I saw some of his former classmates, teachers, and mentors at ALA roll the sleeves for him. And I saw people within my network taking the fundraising campaign as if it was theirs. And, we raised the money in three days.
GoFundme was impressed and even reached out to us to feature our fundraising story. Alli is currently in India and has resumed his studies and the balance from the campaign was donated to his social enterprise DesignIT, an initiative he co-founded as a secondary school student to help students in underserved communities to develop basic digital skills and web design.
When we help and invest in the education of teenagers like Alli, we are helping them change their circumstances and they will be able to transform their communities. And this act taught me a thing and reinforced my belief that we do not need to reach tens of thousands of people, we need to just reach one person and give them the courage to do the same for others.
I look forward to him starting a role in Facebook someday and I will come back to this piece and smile.
What has it been like for you after your EndSars essay drew attention?
I mean for me I was far away from home and I was seeing the EndSARS movement from Edinburgh. I saw the power of young people first hand and when I saw the essay contest released by Ufahamu Africa to reflect on life and politics in Africa. It was a great opportunity to document the experiences of young people with police brutality and to talk about the power of young people in Nigeria and what the Government is missing by not including them in politics.
I never knew I was going to win the essay contest and it was the first one ever and I am privileged to be the first winner. I also recited my essay on the Ufahamu Africa Podcast where the likes of Prof. Wole Soyinka have been featured.
More so, this winning got me a feature by the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh and Centre of African Studies. Moving from there, I have been invited to speak about movement building, and how to lead social change through several youth platforms. My essay has also served as a reference point for people willing to learn about the EndSARS movement, most especially the power of young people. I am looking forward to writing more and using my writing for social change.
How do you feel working with MasterCard Foundation recently?
First and foremost, I am really grateful to the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Programme at the University of Edinburgh for the scholarship opportunity to study MSc in Africa and International Development. More importantly, for also providing me the opportunity to learn and grow within the organization.
Through the foundation, I got an internship as a master’s student to work on the Foundation for All project, a bridging blended learning programme that prepares 40 refugee learners in Uganda for higher education.
As part of the project, I was able to co-create/manage a mentoring programme, where MasterCard Foundation scholars from three different learning institutions — University of Edinburgh, Makerere University and American University of Beirut — were matched with the refugee learners to provide academic support and help them with scholarship applications. I built some key management skills along the line and also got an opportunity to work as a placement-based dissertation researcher to further help with monitoring and evaluation of the project as well as write a 15000 words dissertation on the project.
I learned a lot about challenges facing refugees in accessing higher education and that has influenced my current advocacy work in providing educational support for refugees. More so, all of these experiences got me a role with Refugee Education UK as the educational mentoring coordinator just three weeks after completing my dissertation. So, I am grateful to the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Programme for the platform and opportunity to further harness my skills.
Can you brief us more about your work — helping refugees?
In terms of my current work with Refugee Education UK (REUK) as an Educational Mentoring Coordinator for the West London Hub, I connect young refugees and asylum seekers especially those who are unaccompanied with mentors who support them with educational support such as English, Mathematics among others.
I manage those mentoring pairs and relationships and ensure young people we work with get the necessary support to stay and thrive in education.
Despite the challenges young refugees and asylum seekers face in accessing education from finances, to changes in accommodation, to learning a new language and mental and traumatic experiences that comes with the process, it is great to see their optimism and believe that one day, they would become something bigger than they have ever imagined. Seeing this inspires me to want to continue to deepen my experience working in this sector and want to resume to work every single day.
Thank you for speaking to us, Hammed Alabi.
By Elijah Christopher