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How I got Awarded the Kader Asmal Fellowship Programme 2021

How I got Awarded the Kader Asmal Fellowship Programme 2021

How I got Awarded the Kader Asmal Fellowship Programme 2021 to study in Ireland


How I got Awarded the Kader Asmal Fellowship Programme 2021


The Kader Asmal Fellowship programme is the Irish government’s initiative under the Ireland Fellowship programme. The fellowship funds South African graduate so that they help the country to meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The programme is for scholars to pursue a Master’s degree in any field at an Irish Higher Education Institution of their choice.


I have always wanted an opportunity to study a postgraduate degree abroad with the desire to interact and share my experience with different scholars from all walks of life. In 2012 while I was a third year Social Work student at the University of Venda (Republic of South Africa) I stumbled across the Abe Bailey Travel Bursary to the United Kingdom on the notice board. I was very much fascinated about checking notice boards as a way of getting myself updated on what was happening in the campus. I then took a chance and applied for the travel bursary. I was invited to the interview which was held within the campus (Art Gallery) and the panelists were about seven and I was so nervous. It was my first interview and I did my best to answer the questions which they asked me. After a week or so, I received the news that I was shortlisted among the best three students at the university and our applications were sent to compete nationally with students from other South African Universities. Unfortunately, I did not make it to the final list of students who went to the United Kingdom that year. I was very disappointed but again the Lessons I took from the Abe Bailey travel Bursary application was that I had potential to compete at any platform and that taking up chances and opportunity is very important.


In 2013 while doing my normal rounds within the campus I came across a notice from the School of Human and Social Sciences about a Social work study trip to Germany. I took it upon myself to apply for the opportunity and I was selected to be among the 10 social work students who went to Germany, Holzminden. The experience was so special because it was my first trip travelling outside my country and the first time in an aero plane. It was very special.

Fast forward to Mid 2017-2019, the drive to study abroad was reignited once again. I then booked the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and I got a band 6.5 with the lowest band being 6.0. I started applying for admission at universities in the United Kingdom and also for scholarships such as Chevening and Erasmus Mundus. I managed to secure admissions at different universities because it is not much of a challenge if your grades are good. However, securing a scholarship seemed to be like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or Everest. For those years I could not get any funding and the famous emails I received were “Thank you for your application and due to highly competitive nature of this year’s applicants, we regret to inform you that your application was unsuccessful”. Such emails can break your morale and confidence. I got so much broken to an extent that I normalized those emails. I always expected something like that because unaware I had lost hope.

In August 2019 I came across the Kader Asmal Fellowship programme (KAFP). I cannot remember how or where I got it because it was the first time being aware of such a programme. I checked the eligibility criteria and realized that I perfectly qualified just like the rest of the scholarships I applied previously. I told myself that I had to carefully research about the scholarships and put more effort on the application than how I approached the other scholarship applications. KAFP has three stages of application. Stage 1 is Preliminary application: This is a short application for the panel to check the applicants’ eligibility. Thereafter, once successful on the first stage applicants are invited through emails to move to stage 2 of the application. Stage 2 is detailed application where more information is required such as personal statements, motivation on the two chosen courses and universities. Lastly academic references are also requested on this stage.  I took a chance and applied for the first stage which closed on 14 September 2019. On the 8th of October 2019 at 12h38 I received an email that I progressed from stage 1 to stage 2. I was so excited and started to believe that my dreams were valid. The very same day of the feedback, I started with stage 2 application process because I was so motivated and believed that my time had come. I submitted the application on the closing date which was 12th of November 2019. I did not want to submit it early before I was sure that I was happy with the content. I read it every day and made changes where there was a need. I waited patiently for the outcome of stage 2 application.

How I got Awarded the Kader Asmal Fellowship Programme 2021

0n the 5th of December 2019 at 14h45 I received an email informing me that I was shortlisted for the interviews. Reality kicked in that I was making significant progress and that I was close to reaching my dreams. On the same month I also wrote the English Language Testing System exam in Johannesburg (RSA) because my previous test report had expired in September 2019 and they wanted the ones which were written in 2018 (IELTS expires after 2 years). I Passed the exams and I was over the moon. I knew that the only thing remaining was the interview. On 16 January 2020 I travelled from Polokwane to the Embassy of Ireland in Pretoria for the interview and my appointment time was 10h30. I arrived two hours early and sat outside the embassy building and only went inside 30 minutes before my scheduled time. I walked into the interview room with so much confidence. The interview went very well and I was feeling good about myself when I left the room. On 21 January 2020 at 14h03 I received an email that my interview was successful and that my application will be sent to the Head Quarters in Ireland for final selection.

Fast forward to 14 May 2020, I received an email that I progressed to the next stage of applying to Universities in Ireland for the two selected courses with assistance of the Irish Council of International Students. I thought that I was dreaming and on the same day I started with my application process because I did not want any problems. The National University of Ireland was the first one to respond to my application and it was my much preferred university and they offered me a course place for MA in Gender, Globalization and Rights. The best day for this year was on 27 July 2020 when I finally received a confirmation letter from the Embassy of Ireland that I was awarded a Fellowship. However, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic all over the world, KAFP applicants were given a chance to either continue with travelling to Ireland and start their course in September 2020 or defer to 2021/22 academic year. I then opted for deferral because I want to have the best time in Ireland and the current covid-19 restrictions all over the world are not favorable for a total experience in Europe. I also want to have more of face-to-face contact classes in terms of learning and less of online.

My journey was field with ups and down, disappointments, breaking down and the verge of losing hope completely. However, resilience has won and what matters now is that I got the one thing which I so wanted for a very long time. It is true that dreams delayed are not dreams denied.

By Rodney Rikhotso

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