Exceptional Nigerian student celebrates hard earned success

A talented student from Nigeria who worked to pay for his own schooling and spent years saving for university will graduate from the University of Bath with an MSc in Management & Finance, on Wednesday 14 December.

Jelili Babalakin’s father died when he was just 15, leaving his mum to raise Jelili and his five brothers and sisters in their rural home in Nigeria. Jelili left home during his schooling and worked in a local store to fund his living costs and put himself through school.

He was determined to go on to university, to realise his ambitions for a career that will make a positive impact on his country’s economy and political system.   

Jelili, now aged 33, spent seven years saving for university, and completed his first degree at the University of Lagos, combining geography with accounting.

He was consistently one of the highest achieving students and was offered a scholarship to complete a masters degree at the University of Bath. Jelili supplemented his bursary with evening jobs cleaning offices.

Jelili said: “Growing up was full of ups and downs. As a child, I learnt the hard way. Combining work with schooling was a difficult task but I wasn’t going to give up.

“My ambition is to take up a political career in Nigeria to fill the loopholes in the current political system and to benefit public services and rural, community development.

“I wanted to study abroad to immerse myself in another culture, and deepen my personal, academic and political understanding of international affairs. I chose Bath because I thought it would give me the best academic grounding.

“My mum and cousins are coming from Nigeria to watch me graduate: they’re very proud of me and all my efforts.”

“I’m also very grateful to the Honourable Justice Bola Babalakin and his son the Chaiman of Bi-Courtney Aviation Industry Dr Wale Babalakin who have supported me throughout my degree.”

Jelili is in the final stages of graduate interviews with global management consulting firm, McKinsey and Company, and Exon Mobil Nigeria.

He is one of over 1,000 students who will graduate on Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 December.

Mike Willis, Jelili’s lecturer in the School of Management, said: “Jelili has been very successful in completing his degree through much turmoil and financial deprivation. He has been dealt a difficult hand in life though always managed himself impeccably. He has shown tremendous commitment, fortitude and I have no doubt his career will be every bit as successful as he deserves.”

Students from the Faculty of Engineering & Design, Division for Lifelong Learning, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences and School of Management will all be receiving their degrees.

Four honorary graduates will also receive degrees at the ceremonies, including Sir Keith Mills, entrepreneur and Deputy Chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, and human rights campaigner Clive Stafford Smith OBE.

The ceremonies take place at 10am, 12.30pm and 3pm on Tuesday and also at 5.30pm on Wednesday.

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