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UWC PhD Graduate Succeeds Despite Huge Challenges

Author: Harriet Box

When Dr Emmanuel Ilori arrived in Cape Town from Nigeria six years ago to study towards his honours degree in management at UWC, he was expecting to meet a “travel agent” recommended by a friend.

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(Published - 30 November 2018)

When Dr Emmanuel Ilori arrived in Cape Town from Nigeria six years ago to study towards his honours degree in management at UWC, he was expecting to meet a “travel agent” recommended by a friend.

This agent had received Dr Ilori’s money to arrange payment for his fees and accommodation prior to his arrival, but was nowhere to be seen. Ilori was stranded in a foreign country and had lost all his money to the fraudster.

But this year, after beating all the odds, he graduated with a PhD in public administration and is an associate lecturer at the School of Government. Today he is dedicated to empowering young people and is committed to giving back to a University and a country that he believes moulded him.

When he arrived in Cape Town he couldn’t register for his studies and had to rely on a few good Samaritans from a church he joined on arrival. They arranged accommodation in the church building 20 kilometres away from UWC.

Circumstances forced him to work as a security guard. To aggravate matters, he had no work permit and was exploited by his employer. He lived on R1000 per month while having to save for school fees.

“I wasn’t going to ask my parents for money, because I left there with a commitment to my dad not to worry about me financially. ‘Tough times don’t last, but tough men do,’ is what my dad used to teach me, and I often held on to those words,” said Dr Ilori.

He eventually had to swallow his pride and accept money from his extended family in Nigeria. It was an arduous challenge, and with part payment of school fees in hand, he eventually registered very late at UWC for his honours degree.

During his first year of study Dr Ilori participated in the UWC/Oklahoma State University (OSU) exchange programme - Entrepreneurship Development in South Africa” (EESA) - where he was a consultant and assisted South African youth in Khayelitsha and Gugulethu. “I taught and mentored new businesses in entrepreneurship development, skills development and capacity building.”

He travelled by train throughout his honours programme and was forced to sleep in the UWC library because he often missed the last train. After graduating, he enrolled for a master’s degree and in 2015 he began studying towards his PhD.

In 2016 he spent several months at the University of West Timisoara in Romania. As a result, UWC now has an exchange programme with the Romanian university.

“UWC made me who I am today. The calibre of lecturers and resources impacted my knowledge and development. The lecturers here are passionate about the development of students and they have a positive impact on them. They encourage the belief that you will make it with education; being educated means that you’re well-informed.”

In 2016 he spent several months at the University of West Timisoara in Romania thanks to a partnership with UWC which enabled Emmanuel to study there.​​

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