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The struggle behind the smile

A University of Brighton graduate is launching a charity to help international and ethnic students realise their academic dreams

Posted by Hannah Vickers | March 30, 2017 | People

Dr Oladapo Akinlotan was brought up in slums in Nigeria and after years of financial hardship he finally achieved his goal of being awarded a Doctor of Philosophy.

He now wants to share his journey “to inspire overseas students facing financial challenges in the UK and worldwide”.

Dr Akinlotan said: “To achieve this I want to set up a charity to help inspire and motivate people from less privileged backgrounds so they can achieve their dreams, no matter what the challenges.

“I want to visit high schools, colleges and universities in deprived areas across the UK and encourage the younger generation to follow their dreams even in the midst of challenges.”

His charity, he said, would provide financial assistance to those “whose dreams are threatened” by lack of funds, and he will be looking to organisations and individuals to back him with donations.

Dr Akinlotan, whose PhD was awarded at the University of Brighton's Winter Graduation in February for his work on sedimentary geology in South East England, said he hoped also to inspire the next generation of geologists and geoscientists as a lecturer.

By giving me one of the Doctoral College’s four International Research Scholarship slots in that year the university has made world class education accessible to aspiring oversea students like me who desperately need financial support to achieve their goals - Dr Oladapo Akinlotan, University of Brighton graduate

He praised the university: “It deserves huge credit for this success story particularly the international office and the School of Environment and Technology for providing financial assistance. By giving me one of the Doctoral College’s four International Research Scholarship slots in that year the university has made world class education accessible to aspiring oversea students like me who desperately need financial support to achieve their goals.

“The scholarship paid 50% of my tuition for three years while the School paid the tuition for the fourth year.”

Even with the support, Dr Akinlotan said life was still a struggle: “In order to continue the research and provide for my family, I took a part time job in health and social care. This was extremely challenging as the combination of a full time PhD and a part time job meant I worked very long hours every week.

“We had our first child in 2012 and second child two years later and despite increased demands on money and the high cost of living in Brighton I managed to continue my research. I was determined never to give up.”

In addition to his PhD, Dr Akinlotan was awarded a Postgraduate Certificate in Research Methodology and an Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. He also had  three scientific publications in international journals and another three articles are under review.

His journey began from day one – he was born into poverty and grew up in Mushin, a slum in Nigeria’s capital Lagos. After completing secondary school education he started teaching geography and mathematics to raise money for his university education.

He studied at Olabisi Onabanjo University and went without meals and walked miles to and from the university each day for five years before finally being awarded a BSc(Hons) in geology. 

Dr Akinlotan gained an MSc in petroleum geoscience at the University of Manchester in 2008/9 but at one point he was unable to support himself. He continued the full-time programme and took a part-time job before graduating with a merit.

Dr Akinlotan, who lectures at the university, has written three self-published books on self-motivation and regularly posts articles on social media to an audience of more than 1,000 people: “I now want to use the charity to reach out to a larger audience to inspire and motivate. 

“Launching and running this charity to help international students will help me fulfill a lifetime ambition to help people achieve their dreams and goals, regardless of all challenges and obstacles facing them.”

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