A Nigerian, Mohammed Keana, has been selected among the fourth cohort of Obama Foundation Scholars in the United States.

He is among the two groups of 12 emerging leaders from around the world who will study at Columbia University for the 2021-2022 academic year, the foundation announced.

At Columbia University, Mr Keana will join other Obama scholars to complete a nine-month residency with Columbia World Projects, an initiative that mobilises the university’s faculty and researchers to work with governments, non-governmental organisations, businesses, and communities to create tangible solutions to real-world issues.

“This cohort will also participate in seminars, personal and professional development workshops, audited coursework, and other programming designed in consultation with the Foundation,” the foundation said.

Launched in 2018, the programme is designed to inspire, empower, and connect emerging leaders with the tools they need to make their efforts more effective and impactful across their global communities.

“It is truly remarkable to see the steadfast commitment of these rising leaders working to meet the economic, educational, and social needs of their communities across the globe,” said Obama Foundation President Valerie Jarrett.

“These individuals have displayed profound courage, dedication, and the spirit needed to create lasting change in the world, especially during challenging times. I’m thrilled to welcome this cohort of Scholars.”


Mr Keana is from Nasarawa State in North-central Nigeria.

He is an alumnus of the Federal Government College, Keffi, and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, class of 2006 and 2011 respectively.

He is the founder and team lead of the Almajiri Child Rights Initiative (ACRI), an advocacy group that amplifies the call for education and social inclusion for West Africa’s most at-risk children.

ACRI uses a child-rights-centered approach to develop and deliver direct support programmes for vulnerable out-of-school children in northern Nigeria and raises awareness among policymakers at all levels of governance to bring attention to this issue.

The ACRI’s child-protection interventions are believed to have reached more than 5,000 children across 15 states in northern Nigeria and its advocacy campaigns have garnered international attention and partnerships with states and non-state actors – the Nigerian government at state and federal levels, and international organisations.

Mr Keana is a recipient of the United Nations SDG Action award in Bonn Germany. He has also received an Ambassador of Peace award by Universal Peace Federation in Missouri, USA and NCMG International Peace Award Nigeria, for his work with vulnerable children.

He is a fellow of the Leap Africa Social Innovators Programme and is passionate about human rights and good governance.

In 2019, Mr Keana received the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Action Awards as one of three finalists in the includer category, which recognises extraordinary efforts to ensure that no one is left behind in a country’s sustainable development, a core principle of the 2030 Agenda.

He is a LEAP African Fellow and a trained microbiologist with a bachelor’s degree from Ahmadu Bello University and a master’s degree in development studies from the Nigerian Defense Academy.


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