Adesola Ikulajolu, an alumnus of the Department of Mass Communication, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA), Ondo State, has broken a global record to become the second Nigerian to make the Dart Center Fellowship.
Ikulajolu was selected for the 2023 Early Childhood Reporting Fellowship programme since Chikezie Omeje of the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) became the first Nigerian journalist ever to be selected for the fellowship in 2017.
Early Childhood Reporting Fellowship was organised by the Dart Center training programme of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Sponsored by the Bernard van Leer Foundation (Netherlands), the Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation (Brazil), and The Two Lilies Fund (United States), 36 fellows were selected for the Dart Center’s 2023 Fellowships, 15 persons for the Global Fellows, 15 for the Brazil Fellows, and six individuals for the Latin America Fellows.
Ikulajolu will join his fellows to undertake projects under eight Faculty, on the effects of war, disaster, inequality, and poverty on young children’s growth and development, as well as the well-being of their caregivers spanning from across the globe.
According to the Executive Director, Bruce Shapiro, the fellows’ stories would address, “the effects of war and displacement on refugee children from Ukraine, lack of sanitation on children in the Brazilian Amazon, water pollution on pregnant women in Kenya, pesticide use on young children in Brazil, psychological effects on children and caregivers resulting from the conflict in Kashmir, challenges facing young children with disabilities in Malawi and the effects of foster care and adoption on children in the U.S.”
Speaking with EDUGIST, Ikulajolu said he saw the call to apply but ignored it because it was focusing on children, saying he had always been careful and skeptical about reporting on children.
“I bookmarked it, and later on, a senior colleague sent me the same link again,” he added.
Ikulajolu stated that he rolled on the bed — then danced for one hour when the congratulatory mail came.
“After that, I went to read the entire mail, I still couldn’t comprehend so I had to go search for the fellowship and I saw the funding and the opportunities in it; I was excited. It is life-changing for my career.
“Even as I am still running other national fellowships, I accepted it with joy being a global opportunity.”
Ikulajolu noted that being the youngest on the list gave him energy so Dart Center will continue to focus on Nigerian journalists for years to come.
He said: “I went back to repair the phone I abandoned earlier so I could access the cover letter I wrote, then I saw what my project is focusing on.”
He advised young journalists seeking such opportunities to always embrace research and focus on delivering quality projects rather than being carried away with funds.
“To every young journalist seeking such opportunity, put in the work; read other people’s work and carve out pitches that are worth funding. Do background work before you apply, don’t be carried away by the funding but by the quality of the projects you want to deliver.
“It is life-changing for my career. When the congratulatory mail came, I still couldn’t comprehend so I had to go search for the fellowship and I saw the funding and the opportunities in it. I was excited.”
When asked about the challenges he faced, he said “The first challenge was that the application was around the 2023 general elections when I was covering Lagos State — my laptop was not with me coupled with other events I was attending.”
“The only option was to work on my phone. The deadline was midnight on Monday, March 20, 2023, but I did my submission exactly some minutes after 11 pm that same Monday.
“I was also confused while drafting the budget because I had to start converting from naira to dollar and vice versa just to fit into my preliminary research- since the funding was not in naira, I had to first do the conversion into naira equivalent to be sure my budget is accurate.”
He maintained that he applied some minutes before the deadline because he had arrived at another week-long fellowship in Lagos, but could only borrow a colleague’s laptop for the application.
“Unfortunately, my phone got broken and splitted into two during the fuss when I went to cover the election at Victoria Garden City on Sunday 19th March 2023, so I couldn’t use my phone but I was able to access the draft I made on the phone already.
“Another part was the request for a letter from my editor or any media organization willing to publish my work; that almost discouraged me because there is practically no editor that will provide me a letter as late as 10 pm. I still went ahead to do the application, since the letter was optional but an added advantage.”
Previously, Ikulajolu is on the Open Contract Reporting Fellowship by the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Africa Data Hub Fellowship, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) Fellowship, amongst others.
By: Friday Omosola