Life-changing learnings

Annual report Orange Knowledge / Individual scholarships.

The Orange Knowledge Programme provided 1,778 students with individual scholarships in 2018.
Posted by Mike Cooper

This article is part of a series of stories covering the highlights of the annual report of the Orange Knowledge Programme for 2018.

Read the other articles in the series:

The scholarships for master's and short courses do not only offer the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills – they are a life-changing experience. The relevance of an individual scholarship for mid-career professionals from developing countries is much wider than the course material itself. It changes students’ perspectives, and perhaps even their view on the world.

“When I got to the Netherlands, I noticed that transportation systems work, power works, utilities work: this is how it's supposed to be. The bottom line is, if it's not like that back home, get what you can from here, go back home and try to make it like this!”, says water supply engineering scholarship student Immanuel Beaye-Kaiia Freeman from Liberia. The Dutch method of learning, the social aspects of experiencing another culture being in an international class room, and the challenge of going out of one's comfort zone combine to create this life-changing experience. Ideally, students like Immanuel return home, inspired to apply their new knowledge and become agents of change in their professions and societies. That is the ultimate goal of Orange Knowledge Programme individual scholarships.

Two types of scholarships

There are two types of individual scholarships provided by the Orange Knowledge Programme: post-graduate master’s programmes, lasting 1 or 2 years and short courses, not connected to a degree. These last for at least 2 weeks and no longer than 12 months. “We have 3 application rounds per year and applications are assessed by the participating Dutch organisations offering the course and the Dutch embassy in the partner country”, explains Siu Liën Tjoa, programme manager master’s.

“In 2018, we received the number of good applications we aimed for, but there’s always room for improvement. We saw some big differences in numbers of applications per country, with the Francophone countries lagging behind. Also, a more even spread over priority themes is on our agenda for 2019. The equal gender balance is something we have covered thanks to targeting female professionals.”

A formidable force

One thing most scholarship recipients agree upon is how applicable the knowledge they acquire in the Netherlands is to their everyday work at home. The courses are very practical, much more than many of them are used to. “Here the teachers were able to give us a practical syllabus which applies to our situation,” explains Augustina Ogochukwu Ezekwesili, a teacher of animal health and production in Nigeria. Augustina attended a short course on Animal Feed at Aeres International Training Centre in Barneveld, the Netherlands.

“Together with my students, we can now form a formidable force so that the farms around will know that there are people in the institution who can give them the exact advice and technical know-how on animal feed. I see a lot of possibilities from the course. I opened an Instagram page recently, just for farmers. Farmers can then send me the ingredients they have, and the problem they have. I can then formulate a feed – for their livestock – and send it. A lot can happen through digital media.”

Wider benefits

Studying in the Netherlands is an excellent opportunity to learn new material on a range of areas in which the country excels, such as Food and Nutrition Security, Water, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and Security and Rule of Law. Yet in addition to the course material on whichever subject the students are learning: students also gain wider skills. We should not underestimate the additional benefits for individuals and their societies which are also acquired during an education programme and taken back home.

“I grew up in a society where females were relegated. Where girls just want to get pregnant and have a man. I don't want to be like that,” explains Funmilayo Odebola-Fadimine from Nigeria who studied for a master’s in Urban Management and Development. “When I get back home, and the girls around me see me, I want them to say: “I want to be like that woman, who didn't just get pregnant, but is somebody today’.”

“This is my first time abroad,” says Selfa Abraham Uiso, a livestock officer in Tanzania. “I have come to get more knowledge on poultry, as that is my personal passion. The Netherlands is a small country with big things. It has good technology which you can put into practice back home. Everyone is different and through that you learn from them and they learn from you,” she adds.

“I would like young people from my country to start acting for a change in the future”

- Ouattara Cheick Ahmed, Food & Nutrition Security student, Burkina Faso

Gender and the private sector

The Orange Knowledge Programme provided a total of 1,778 scholarships, of which 881 were granted to women. This equal participation contributes to socio-economic development. While there is still much work to be done to fully integrate gender issues into all course curricula, gender is a cross-cutting theme in the programme.

In total, 10% of all the scholarship recipients in 2018 were employed in the private sector, including 72 professionals working in small and medium-sized companies (SMEs). They all started master's programmes. The Orange Knowledge Programme aims to create and stimulate entrepreneurship as well as strengthen institutions and the public services which create economic activity. Private sector development is also a cross-cutting theme within the Orange Knowledge Programme.

While up until now the accent of the scholarships awarded has been on Food and Nutrition Security and Water (74.5% in 2018), in future the programme will strive to include more scholarships for professionals in the areas of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, and Security and Rule of Law.

‘Something new every day’

Alongside learning new information, the students all dream of the future of their countries. This makes the programme resonate beyond the course and increases capacity, which leads to job creation, better infrastructure and basic health and welfare in the programme countries.

“It’s so sad that in my country we see people who are just sitting and wishing for something to happen,” says Outtara Cheick Ahmed from Burkina Faso. “I would like young people from my country to start acting for a change in the future.”

“The Netherlands is such a small country,” says master's scholarship student Funmilayo Odebola-Fadimine from Nigeria. “But the impact it has around the globe is enormous. In terms of capacity building, giving us skills and giving opportunities to the less privileged.”

There will, however, always be some challenges that overseas scholarship holders may never get used to in the Netherlands. “I expected that it would be really cold,” explains Ynna Margarita Yolong from the Philippines. “But I didn't expect it to be that cold!”

This article is part of a series of stories covering the highlights of the annual report of the Orange Knowledge Programme for 2018.

Read the other articles in the series: