On 28 July 2022, the Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows Alumni Association, Nigeria (COSFAN) collaborated with the Commonwealth Alumni Association Sierra Leone (CAASL) to deliver the joint webinar, ‘Mentoring on Access to Commonwealth Scholarships’.

The webinar addressed two key topics: ‘Strengthening Research Skills’ and ‘Translating research into policy: Issues, challenges and a way forward for Commonwealth Alumni’.

The core aims of the webinar were to:

  • Emphasise the importance of post-Scholarship support in addressing the challenges in maintaining long term commitment to research between individuals, government, or private sector in low and middle income countries (LMICs);
  • Provide mentoring support to students and early career researchers, particularly in professional and interdisciplinary fields; and
  • Positively impact research development by adopting a systematic approach to research agendas.

The event began with welcome addresses from CAASL president, Sonnia Magba Bu-Buakei Jabbi (2003 Shared Scholar), and COSFAN president, Dr Abiola Adimula (2010 Professional Fellow). The event was moderated by Dr Azizat Amoloye-Adebayo (2007 Scholar), COSFAN North Central Coordinator.

The webinar comprised a panel discussion which highlighted existing regional mentoring structures in LMICs and common challenges associated with applying for Commonwealth Scholarships. The panellists were Dr Samuel Bonzu, Director of Macro-Fiscal Policy Division in the Ministry of Finance (2015 Scholar) representing CAASL, and Dr Ekundayo Samuel, Secretary-General of COSFAN and Founder and Board Chair of Dove-Haven Foundation (2017 Split-site Scholar), representing COSFAN.

Exploring ways to strengthen research skills

Dr Samuel provided an overview of Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships, and the developmental focus of the awards. He advised potential applications to ensure their proposed research was aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and outlined the selection criteria and guidance available on the CSC website. Dr Bonzu expanded on this information by sharing his experiences of studying in the UK as a Commonwealth Scholar. The panel was followed by a Q&A session where attendees had the opportunity to obtain further information.

Translating research into policy

Addressing the second webinar topic on ‘Translating research into policy: Issues, challenges and a way forward for Commonwealth Alumni’, the Secretary-General of CAASL, Dr Salieu, highlighted the importance of ensuring research can be translated into policies and in securing government support.

He explained the challenges associated with this, such as university researchers receiving a lack of recognition from government agencies in policy-making due to misconceptions that researchers do not have the expertise to assist with the development and implementation of policies.

Suggestions shared to mitigate these challenges included increasing the number of collaborations between government and university institutions, increased transparency within government regarding funding, and enhancing public knowledge on research funding decisions.

The discussion was followed by a keynote address delivered by Roseline Obadiuno, representative of British Council Nigeria. The event concluded with closing remarks from Commonwealth Alumnus Rachael Osagie (2015 Academic Fellow).