Dr. Olumuyiwa Igbalajobi, a native of Efon Alaaye, Ekiti State, graduated in Microbiology from
Ado-Ekiti University and has completed master’s and doctoral studies in South Korea and Germany, respectively. In this interview with IFEDAYO OGUNYEMI, she talks about the English language proficiency tests required for graduates from English-speaking countries and other topics. extracts;

How would you describe the challenges you faced throughout your journey at the academy?

Well, they have been mixed feelings. Starting with having to write SSCE 10 times before I could achieve my O-Level result was really exhausting and almost discouraging for me. Also during my undergraduate program at Ado-Ekiti University, I had a carryover in a 4 unit course which prompted me to work harder until I graduated. And when I think back to that time in South Korea when I had to write my final exams in Korean, it gives me the assurance that nothing is impossible.

You have traveled four continents studying, researching and teaching. What did you discover differently about these ecosystems?

Well, different systems have their own values, cultures, and ways of interacting with people. Take, for example, 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 part 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 these different fields as far as education is concerned?

The fact that the resources I need to use in the lab or at work are at my fingertips for free is in stark contrast to what is obtainable in most developing countries. Take Nigeria, for example, in addition to the scarcity of resources and tools, it also has to self-finance its research.

You were at the forefront of getting some foreign universities to “drop” 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It all started on Twitter in May 2022 when one of my followers brought to my attention an outdated list on the University of Alberta website. I was not satisfied as I was expecting more but sadly only a few universities in Nigeria were recognized on the page, and not only that, some of the names have been changed over time but they were not updated on the UAlberta page. As an advocate for inclusive and equitable education, I took it upon myself to email the graduate school office. Surprisingly, the mistake was acknowledged and the page was later updated to exempt Nigerian applicants from the test. That victory started a movement that resulted in emails being sent to around 100 universities around the world, who prior to my email applied for IELTS and TOEFL from English-speaking African countries.

How would you describe the traction/success you’ve generated today?

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

Many people look up to you, particularly in the academic and medical research areas. How would you advise young Nigerians settling in academia, career and other areas of life?

They must enjoy the phase, be very careful about 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 will definitely be another day. It is also important to network and identify a support system. In short, they must be passionate and happy with the decisions they make.

You recently founded Scholarships Cafe. Which of the many challenges facing our society does it propose to address?

Scholarships Cafe was founded on the premise that over $2 million in scholarships are left unclaimed each year due to data gaps and a lack of qualified applicants. With current users from 186 countries around the world, our mission is to continually increase access to resources, scholarships, and funding opportunities that target marginalized and underrepresented groups. Since its inception, Scholarships Cafe has contributed to the success stories of more than 100,000 applicants and more than $500,000 in scholarships and scholarly work. Our vision is to become the largest scholarship platform that connects institutions with talented candidates.