A GRADUATE of a Scots university is aiming to help transform and save lives in his home country after securing his degree through distance learning.
Graduates of the University of Dundee are returning this week for official ceremonies, but Chidi Okonkwo’s visit to the city will be his first.
Chidi Okonkwo, who is originally from Anambra, Nigeria, secured a Commonwealth Scholarship to study Infection Prevention & Control (IPC), a postgraduate distance learning course at the University of Dundee, in 2017.
Throughout the distance learning course, the 29-year-old stayed in his home country, studying online and attending some in-person University events hosted in Ghana.
He officially graduated in 2021, becoming Dundee’s first Commonwealth Scholar to do so for the MSc Infection Prevention and Control programme.
Speaking on his scholarship, Chidi said: “When I saw the opportunity to apply for the Commonwealth Scholarship it was something I really wanted to do, so I gave it a shot.
“While I was hopeful, I couldn’t believe that I was chosen. I have not experienced anything like it all through my education.”
Chidi completed his undergraduate degree in human physiology at the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria, so the IPC course was a natural progression.
At the time he was already engaged in health programmes in Nigerian schools, teaching children about the importance of personal hygiene.
“Awareness of infection control and prevention in my country only really started a few years ago,” he said.
“After the Ebola crisis people began to realise the importance of hygiene and hand-washing as a prevention method.
“There was a need to inform students in primary schools so they can incorporate the habit of personal hygiene from a young age and know about infections and ways to prevent it.
“I’ll use the knowledge I acquired from this learning to inform others.
“It has helped me understand how to create some change, because we need to apply some changed techniques to improve and create newer ways of doing things.
“I want my education to make a difference, especially in my home country.
“We have so many health challenges and I want to impact my society, especially a developing country like Nigeria.
“I want to reach my immediate society and go forward to west Africa, and potentially even further to help influence health practices around the world.”
With the help of the University’s School of Health Sciences, Chidi has flown from Nigeria to Scotland to be able to attend his in-person graduation ceremony on Wednesday 29th June.
He added: “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to come to Dundee.
“This is my first time coming to the UK, to Scotland. I can’t wait to wear my gown and graduate officially.
“I’m excited to meet some of my lecturers who I haven’t met yet, visit and explore the University campus and School and see where the lectures take place.
“I’m also looking forward to learning more, meeting new people and interact, network and discuss.”
Thousands of 2020 and 2021 graduates are returning to Dundee from 28th June-1st July for special ceremonies in lieu of their original graduations, which were unable to be held in person due to Covid-19 restrictions.