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People :: Alumni :: Rosemary Okoli

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Rosemary Okoli

PhD in Social Work, 2009

Graduated: 2009

Prior to my studies at Edinburgh University, I worked in Nigeria as a social/community development professional for the USAID on a global health child survival project - sensitizing and mobilizing hard-to-reach, rural communities to access the free immunization services against the six preventable childhood killer diseases in order to eliminate infant and maternal mortalities.  Also worked for Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Nigeria as Community Development adviser and liaison – advising and working with Shell’s impoverished oil bearing communities to become actively involved in and take ownership of their community development projects rather than depend on unsustainable handouts from oil companies.

My experiences at USAID opened my eyes to the poverty /vulnerabilities faced by children and their families which caused high infant and maternal mortality rates due to several reasons bothering on ignorance as well as superstitious socio/cultural beliefs and practices

I had studied Social Work and Sociology of Development in Nigeria before coming to Edinburgh   Providence brought me to Edinburgh University when I got a Ford Foundation scholarship from the US to undertake a post graduate course in any part of the world. The encouragement and support I received from Prof Viv Cree, my supervisor, the amazing staff of the School of Social and Political Science and from my religious family at the Barclay Church of Scotland, Edinburgh, made me to stay and not run away from the biting Scottish weather and propelled me to continue on to the PhD level.

 I have always been interested in sustainable social and community development initiatives, grassroots mobilization and participation, empowerment of socially excluded groups and individuals, particularly women, children and young people, poverty alleviation, social justice and anti-discriminatory practices and the development and institutionalization of social services in Nigeria.  My previous work experience exposed me to issues of vulnerability and marginalization and Social work came naturally handy as the discipline that would equip me with the knowledge and skills to work towards addressing them. 

Studying at Edinburgh Uni was a fantastic experience from beginning to end and I enjoyed every bit of my academic journey ever since I set my feet on Scottish soil. 

Even though the PhD program in Social Work at Ed Uni does not offer placement experiences but I had varied part- time, paid and voluntary experiences with some charities as a community worker and support worker - supporting vulnerable adults in different projects within the City of Edinburgh, and being on the board of a registered Scottish Charity involved with Black and Minority Ethnic groups gave me plenty experiences and favourite memories. The refreshing meditative evening walks around the Meadows, just between the George Square Campus and my Warrender Park residence, doing the 10k fun run and half marathon fund raising events, crossing the iconic Forth Road Bridge and several sponsored charity events organised by Edinburgh University Students Association. Joining the Centre of African Studies (CAS) retreat events took me to the Scottish highlands and doing the ceildhs (Scottish traditional dancing) made it fun and memorable all the way. Visiting Edinburgh Castle with friends and participating in the fringe events during the Edinburgh festival, watching the Military Tattoo live from the Castle, the candlelight procession on December 31st and the Hogmanay street party were experiences to cherish. But most importantly, meeting and making friends with students from all over the globe, topped the fun for me. Edinburgh University and the city are wonderful world-class places to visit. I have recommended (and will continue to recommend) many students - family, friends and relatives.

Since my graduation, I have been involved in teaching, research and consultancy services back in my home country, Nigeria, and have continued to visit Edinburgh regularly, and so can’t say that I have left Edinburgh completely. My career in academia is largely informed by my training at Edinburgh Uni and I have maintained close contact with my supervisor and my department for guidance and support, to use the library and attend seminars whenever I visit my friends, colleagues and family in Edinburgh.  Besides, Edinburgh is my home and I’m never really going to go away completely in the foreseeable future.

I have tried to incorporate some of my positive experiences of support and encouragement in dealing with students as best as I can - breaking the big teacher-student gap that exists in my culture. I have also encouraged colleagues to get an international experience, attend conferences abroad in order to boost their professional development. I’m still hoping to establish more formal linkages with Social Work at Edinburgh University but this has not happened yet.  

Looking to the future, with increased migration and globalization, there is a need to create better learning opportunities, by increasing partnership with other universities, especially those in the developing societies like mine - the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; sharing research and international placement opportunities, sharing knowledge and best practices. 

There's so much to be learnt by staff and students from both sides!

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