Ireland-Africa Fellows Programme fulfills my dream for European education

On Monday, September 02, 2019 I arrived in Dublin, Ireland as a beneficiary of the Irish Aid Fellowships 2019/2020 (now called Ireland-Africa Fellows Programme) to pursue postgraduate studies in Ireland. I was part of the only 11 Ugandans selected for these fully sponsored study fellowships. In Rwanda, only 4 were selected.

Since childhood, I have always admired to study in Europe, especially the UK. I remember writing to some distance learning institutions in the UK back in 2002 (17 years ago), after reading about it in a newspaper. I was in S.3 and 16 years old. That’s the same year I started buying newspapers for myself. Of course, I didn’t have the money to fully pay and enrol. I again did the same 8 years later while at Gulu University in 2010. This time, I was even sent (by Post Office) course information, notes and some assignments. However, due to financial challenges, I could not fully enrol.

The turning point was in 2014. A friend of mine, Kisarach Phillips, who at the time was teaching in Kigumba Intensive S.S managed to obtain a scholarship to study at the University of Liverpool. We had been marking mock exams together at Lira Town College, and immediately after that exercise, the guy left for the UK. I admired him a lot. After a while, another classmate from Gulu University, Peter Okwoko also went to Denmark for master’s education. Later, I was a survey respondent for his research. I admired him a lot.

As a teacher, I always wanted to attain a postgraduate education at all costs. My serious search for this opportunity was ignited in 2014 by Kisarach. However, at the time, I did not have my undergraduate papers at hand (you know how long it takes to get papers after graduation).

Finally, in March 2017, I was able to get my papers and without wasting time, I immediately applied for Msc Information Systems at Mbarara University of Science & Technology (MUST). I was admitted, but due to the distance, I later changed my mind and applied and enrolled to UTAMU for Master of Information Technology (MIT). This programme was flexible (you attend lectures 6 weekends only). I am hopeful I will go back and finish (still have a few things to complete, including research).

The UTAMU experience was every good. I enjoyed the lecturers and their system of learning, they inspired me further. All of them had attained masters and PhDs from Europe. Dr. Drake Mirembe. Prof. Jude Lubega. Dr. Rehema Baguma. They are really good. I remember one lecturer told us that “when you do masters, you master your destiny.” I believe that very much.

While still at UTAMU, I again saw a World Bank Funded scholarship advert for master’s study at Uganda Martyrs University (UMU). Together with colleagues at Lira Town College (Peter & Dick), we applied. We were later invited to do GAT (which was expensive). We all passed the Graduate Admission Test (GAT) and we were all admitted. This was Msc. in Monitoring & Evaluation. In mid-August 2018, we started classes at UMU Kampala campus. Around that time, I was actually pursuing two masters’ programmes at the same time. I had to balance the Bugolobi & Rubaga timetables accurately, which was tiring & expensive. However, I was not given the scholarship (but Dick got it). So, in October I dropped out from UMU (due to financial challenges) but I had already learnt so much about M & E (I am still on their WhatsApp group).

While juggling all this busy study stuff (my wife had also just given birth to a baby boy in July), I applied for the Irish Aid Fellowships (Sept/October 2018) and the Mandela Washington Fellowship (Sept 2018). However, I had to leave my lecturing job at All Saints University Lango (ASUL) in order to concentrate on studies & the baby. It was a very busy year.

In January 2019, the Embassy shortlisted 20 Ugandans and 4 Rwandese to continue further to do the English test – IELTS which was paid for by the embassy (about UGX 912,000). On February 02, 2019, we did the test and thankfully, I passed on the first attempt. However, many others failed and were allowed to redo it (at their expense of course). After that, a list was then sent to Dublin for final selection. When the list came in March, I was successful. But other names were dropped again, despite passing IELTS.

The 11 successful Ugandans and the Rwandese were then invited to apply for their chosen 2 programmes of study in the application (the application fee was also paid for us). I think I managed to get this because I had come to Ireland last year because of the Teachers Making a Difference award, which was also sponsored by the Embassy of Ireland. But my application was always strong. In early June 2019, was admitted to University College Cork (UCC) to pursue MSc. Interactive Media. I choose this because I wanted to be within the tech domain but study something I had not done already at Gulu University or UTAMU or UMU. The second choice was MEd, however, it delayed so I had to accept the MSc. offer.

On June 19th, I travelled to the U.S for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, civic leadership institute at the University of Delaware. I was very scared, thinking the travel may coincide with travel to Ireland. The U.S experience was very good because I learnt a few things on how to live in the developed world. I was there for 6 weeks – actually 44 days.

I finally received the final offer of award while still in the U.S (it nearly collided). I sent my acceptance from there and requested the Embassy to consider adjusting the date for me to medical test & submission of other documents (date was August 02, my departure from the U.S). Thankfully, this was accepted and I was able to do my medical the week after, and also apply for the visa.

# Name Sex Programme
1 Isabella Janet Nakimuli F LLM in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy, UCC
2 Innocent Aleto F LLM in International Criminal Law, NUIG
3 David Mugarra M MA in Peace and Development Studies, UL
4 Asha Nakiwate F MSc in Human Rights, UCD
5 Angela Nyesiga F LLM in International Commercial Law,
6 Frank Ssemakula M MSc in Electronic and Communications Engineering, TUD
7 Rachel Juliet Mujawimana F MSc in Pharmaceutical Sciences
8 Lindah Niwenyesiga F MA in Public Relations with New Media, CIT
9 Susan Labwot F LLM in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy, UCC
10 Benna Lolem F Master in Education – Foundation Studies, TCD
11 Emmanuel Angoda M MSc in Computer Science (Interactive Media), UCC

For now, my dream has been fulfilled. I know after here, I will continue for PhD here or cross over to the U.S. I also believe life will be much better after here. One day I will be Dr. Emmanuel Angoda (BIT, MIT, Msc.IM, PhD). After being a secondary school teacher for 7 years, my ambition now is to be a lecturer at nearby Lira University or Soroti University (I have never admired working in Kampala). That small position will enable me to continue working with young people, continue with STEM activities and become a famous scholar. It is possible to pursue your dream, no matter how long or hard it takes. If you remain persistent & focussed, you can achieve it. I rest my case.

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