English proficiency tests for Nigerian graduates abroad, others unnecessary, exploitative — Igbalajobi

Posted by News Express | 29 January 2023 | 341 times

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•Dr Olumuyiwa Igbalajobi


Dr Olumuyiwa Igbalajobi who hails from Efon Alaaye, Ekiti State is a graduate of Microbiology from

the University of Ado-Ekiti and has completed Masters and PhD studies in South Korea and Germany respectively. In this interview, he speaks on English Language proficiency tests required of graduates from English-speaking countries and other issues. Excerpts;

How would you describe the challenges you faced throughout your journey in academia?

Well, it’s been mixed feelings. Starting with having to write SSCE 10 times before I could make my O-Level result was really tiring and almost discouraging for me. Also during my undergraduate programme at the University of Ado-Ekiti, I had carryover in a 4-unit course which spurred me to work harder until I graduated. And when I think about that moment in South Korea when I had to write my final exams in Korean, it gives me the assurance that nothing is impossible.

You’ve traversed about four continents studying, researching, and teaching, what did you find out different about these ecosystems?

Well, the different systems have their own values, cultures, and ways of interacting with people. Take for instance, in terms of respect for the elderly, South Korea and Nigeria are closer than Germany. All the countries I have visited except Nigeria invest a significant portion of their budgets in education and technology. It is also important to mention that the teaching style in Canada is more inclusive and participatory.

What stands out for you in those different terrains as far as education is concerned?

The fact that resources that I need to use in the laboratory or at work are at my fingertips for free is in contrast to what is obtainable in most developing countries. Take Nigeria for instance, in addition to the scarcity of resources and tools, you also have to self-fund your research.

You were at the vanguard of getting some foreign universities to “abolish” the IELTS/TOEFL requirements for other equivalent English proficiency tests. What inspired that movement for you?

It all started on Twitter in May 2022 when one of my followers called my attention to a stale list on the website of the University of Alberta. I was dissatisfied because I expected more but alas, only a few universities in Nigeria were recognised on the page, and not that alone, some of the names have been changed over time, yet it wasn’t updated on UAlberta’s page. As an advocate of inclusive and equitable education, I took it upon myself to send an email to the graduate school office. Surprisingly, the error was acknowledged and then the page was updated to exempt applicants from Nigeria from the test. That victory began a movement that resulted in sending emails to about 100 universities across the globe, who before my email, requested IELTS and TOEFL from English-speaking African countries.

How would you describe the traction/success it has generated today?

As someone from Nigeria, an English-speaking country, who has studied in South Korea, and Germany and currently working at the University of British Columbia, Canada without the English test barrier, I see the request for the English test from applicants from English-speaking countries as unnecessary and exploitative. Penn State, University of Oregon, Texas Austin, and Clemson University just to mention a few recently changed these policies which is a victory for the community. Therefore, I do not see the campaign/victory as something about Olumuyiwa but as a collective mission for all. I am impressed seeing my followers engage universities to make a change that is more inclusive and supportive.

Many people look up to you, particularly in the areas of academics and medical research. How would you advise young Nigerians who are finding their feet in academia, career, and other areas of life?

They should enjoy the phase, be extra careful in the steps they take, and be intentional and determined. Graduate school and academia can be demanding and frustrating. However, once you embrace other things that make you happy, tomorrow would definitely be another day. It is also important to network and identify a support system. In summary, they should be passionate and happy about the choices they make.

You recently founded Scholarships Cafe. Which of the numerous challenges facing our society does it set out to address?

Scholarships Cafe was founded on the premise that over $2 million worth of scholarships is left unclaimed annually due to information gaps and a lack of qualified candidates. With current users from 186 countries across the globe, our mission is to continually increase access to resources, scholarships, and funding opportunities targeting marginalised and underrepresented groups. Since its inception, Scholarships Cafe has contributed to the success stories of over 100,000 candidates and over $500,000 in scholarships and academic jobs. Our vision is to become the largest scholarship platform that connects institutions with talented candidates. (Sunday Tribune)


Source: News Express

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