Being the only two persons, from the whole of West Africa to get a fully-funded sojourn to Oxford University, UK, is not a thing one hides at the bottom shelf.
BN had a conversation with Isatou Bokum and Tracy Boakye Serebour, the 2022 Rhodes Trust scholars from West Africa, and these amazing ladies shared their journey to attaining this feat.
Tell us about your academic path to the Rhodes Scholarship
In 2015, my teammate and I were runner-ups in a debate championship. That automatically provided us with a scholarship to complete our undergraduates at the University of The Gambia (UTG). In my final year at UTG, I applied for the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship to study in South Africa, and this made me the first Mandela Rhodes Scholar from The Gambia. I studied Media Theory and Practice at the University of Cape town, while also working as a Digital Intern at Iseli Energy in South Africa.
What else do you do?
I run a non-profit called “Girls Talk” in The Gambia. This is an organisation that advocates for the rights of women and girls. It is to create better opportunities for girls and young women and also the eradication of cultural and traditional beliefs that daunt the growth of women and girls and limit them from reaching their fullest potential.
I am a filmmaker, so I intend to impact the world by making more films that tell women’s stories, by women and for women in other to break the stereotypical ways in which this is done.
What will you be studying at Oxford?
I will be studying Women’s Gender and Sexuality at Oxford which I will use to create better strategies for my organisation and reach more people.
On answering whether she has ever been rejected for a scholarship, Isatou says
I applied for five other scholarships to do my masters, including the Rhodes Scholarship. I have been successful with Rhodes. So, I have not had any rejections on Scholarships yet, but I have been rejected when I applied for some conferences and fellowships.
Tracy Boakye Serebour
Where were you academically when you received the news?
I had just graduated from medical school and enrolled in a graduate medical program in orthopaedic surgery doing research in paediatric spinal cord injury.
What are your plans for the scholarship program?
This scholarship offers a life-changing opportunity for me to work with brilliant scholars in undertaking cutting edge research in musculoskeletal science that is important to improving treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. Also, it will help provide the network and partnership opportunities needed for my future plans of expanding orthopaedic healthcare in Africa especially in Ghana.
The program expects much more than academic prowess from scholars. How will you profit Africa and the world with this opportunity?
It is my goal to work in a global community dedicated to expanding orthopaedic healthcare in Africa through provision of comprehensive, affordable orthopaedic care to those who would not otherwise have access to such treatment. In particular, this vision seeks to enhance access to optimal surgical and non-surgical care for patients with disabling musculoskeletal disorders. For the great investment the Rhodes Trust is making towards my future, I would only hope to repay this debt through my own service to those less fortunate.
Has Tracy ever been rejected for a scholarship program? She responds
I won some scholarships in medical school, and I won a scholarship to study for my current graduate degree. I am blessed to have succeeded in every scholarship I have ever applied to. I do not take that for granted and I am very grateful for all the immense provisions I have received through the various scholarships.