From the small Komakundi village in Kilimanjaro Region of Tanzania to University of British Columbia in Canada, Abel Koka, a Bachelor of Law graduate at the University of Dar es Salaam, shares his dream of becoming a wellspring of change in his community.
What school has given you this Scholarship?
That would be the University of British Columbia in Canada.
How long does the Scholarship last?
It’s A 10-month program; with 8 months of classes at the University of British Columbia and the rest for internship in my home country.
Tell us how you got to know about the Scholarship.
I first saw the opportunity on the After School Africa page on Facebook. The Scholarship opportunity was provided by Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Scholarship in collaboration with the University of British Columbia. The program I applied for is known as Master of International Forestry.
Why did you choose to study in Canada?
Canada is one of the giant countries in the area of Forests. I saw it as an opportunity for me to have a first-hand experience on how they are able to develop their forest sector.
Did you have it easy while applying for this Scholarship?
The whole procedure was not easy at all. First, I had to send my CV and Transcript to the course coordinator to access my eligibility before the formal application. Thereafter I was given a go ahead to submit my formal application. The process was cumbersome and tedious. I had to write some essays to express my motivation. Also, I had to approach some of my lecturers and some of the people I worked with as volunteers to aid me with their recommendation for the recommendation letters I was to present to the school.
So how do you feel winning this Scholarship?
I had this wonderful feeling that at last I’m going to realize my long-time dream of becoming the source of change we want to see in the society. I always dream of making the society a better place for everyone. Having a bachelor degree was not enough for me to work for community development. I decided I needed more exposure on the issues of natural resources management.
What were your exact thoughts before you applied for the Scholarship?
I always believe that nothing is impossible under the sun. Although I had applied for other opportunities before unsuccessfully but that did not discourage me from applying for another one. I believed that there is another opportunity for me somewhere, so I had to go out there and grab it.
What was it about you that made you win this Scholarship?
While I was at the university, I involved myself in community development work by volunteering with several non-governmental organizations which are striving in making the society a better place for everyone. This experience was most valuable in the application process and I believe it gave me an added advantage over others.
Also, although I didn’t study in better schools but I was working very hard in making sure that my English language skills is better. This gave me a sustainable advantage in the application process as well.
What documents did you have to submit and what processes did you have to pass through to get this Scholarship?
I had to get more than one recommendation letters and I got them from my supervisor at work and previous lecturer. It is difficult to get these documents especially from people who are busy and whom you haven’t interacted with after a long time. But to me everything worked very well because even after my studies I always kept in touch with my lecturers and supervisors where I volunteered.
Also, I had to spend much time in preparing other documents such as Statement of Purpose and the likes. This kind of document consumed most of my time. As you know first impression matters, so if you mess up on that document, it will be obvious that you are going to miss the chance. I had to give them to several people to read them through and suggest some corrects where possible before I submitted them.
Other documents that I submitted were copies of my Academic Certificates, CV, Passport and Birth Certificates which was in my possession at the time of application.
How will study at University of British Columbia enable you reach your life goals?
With my Bachelor of Laws degree, I’m looking forward to combine it with Master of International Forestry degree and work for the Sustainable Management of various Natural Resources found in my community. This will cut across forests and other resources found therein. I’m looking forward to working for community development in making sure that they are getting the best out of the resources surrounding them without jeopardizing its future existence.
When I brought up the scholarship news my family was very happy and they were very proud of me. They wished me the best of luck in my studies.
Describe growing up. How was your childhood?
I was raised in a normal family of four children in a very remote village known as Komakundi in Moshi Rural, Kilimanjaro Region in the area adjacent to Mount Kilimanjaro. My school journey was not easy at all. I studied my whole life in ordinary public schools and I had to jump a lot of hurdles in order to realize my academic dreams. Many challenges did not overcome me because I knew what I needed in my education and I had to work very hard in order to get where I’m now.
Where did you get your first degree from?
I studied Law at the University of Dar es Salaam in the class of 2014. Thereafter, I joined the Law School of Tanzania for Post-Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice in the class of 2016.
What advice or encouragement will you give to the youth searching for scholarship?
I would advise young people to not be taken away by the notion that getting a scholarship in the hardest thing to ever do. Yes, the procedure is cumbersome but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t give it a try. Most of us are not patient, we want to succeed on our first attempt which is not right. The first attempt may not work out very well, but that doesn’t mean that we should stop there. We have to keep on applying.
For instance, in my case I have applied for FIVE good Scholarships since 2015, but I didn’t get four of them but I got the fifth one. What makes me succeed is my determination, I have this determination and focus in my mind that there is an opportunity for me there no matter what it takes to get it and how many times I have to apply. According to the late Nelson Mandela, it is always seems impossible until it is done.
Before we go, what do you think about ASA? What has your experience been so far?
ASA to me has been a very good platform which opens the door for Africans to realize their various dreams. Without this platform, it could have been a nightmare for me to go for further studies outside my home country.
Any last words?
I urge fellow Africans to be active and use the ASA platform very well if they want to take a lead in various development issues in our continent. Opportunities are there, it is for us to dare to grab them and get the most out of it.