School of Social and Political Science

Hammed Kayode Alabi


MSc Africa and International Development

Graduating 2021

Winner of the Ufahamu Africa essay contest for his writing on the EndSARS movement.

Portrait of Hammed Alabi outside the Old College

Studying at the School of Social and Political Science

What made you choose to study at the University of Edinburgh?

I understand the University of Edinburgh is one of the best schools globally, and having been born and raised in the slum in Nigeria I know studying here would mean a lot to me and other young people in my country who have had similar circumstances as mine.

I have been an active volunteer since I was 14 years, volunteering for social causes such as HIV/AIDs and educational projects. I also started a non-profit to help children in rural communities develop life and 21st-century skills and access the education, skills, and opportunities to change their inherited circumstances.

My experience working with a global non-profit, Peace First, and supporting youth-led social innovation and change in Sub-Saharan Africa consolidated my efforts to develop core research skills and expertise.

I read about the Centre of African studies at the University of Edinburgh and saw the Mastercard Scholarship opportunity to study Africa and International Development. There was no just better moment than now to build regional expertise and advance my career as a Pan-African and change-maker working through the lens of social justice. The Mastercard Scholarship at the University made my dream come true.

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at the University of Edinburgh

How have you enjoyed your programme?

I love the experiences that my course mates share in classes and have allowed me to see things more from other people’s perspective. I think I enjoyed the programme because of the critical analysis of contemporary issues on the continent (Africa) and in-depth reading and research. I have learned not to see things from the face value but to question them.

I also had a great time sharing with lecturers during their office hours. The freedom to share your thoughts is something that I admire.

What has been your favourite course?

Building Blocks of African Studies. This course allowed me to deepen my knowledge about the continent. We learned about movement in the region, how to tell African stories and read African narratives. The course played a greater role in helping me win the Ufahamu Africa Essay contest.  

Aims for after University

I hope to continue to deepen the work I do to help young people in Sub-Saharan Africa access opportunities. I am also looking forward to contributing to continental policy development and ensuring young people are at the forefront of creating and leading that change. I would not be surprised if I found myself working with a development agency doing some real continental work. I have been learning a lot about policy analysis and development.

I am currently interning with the Mastercard Foundation on promoting access to higher education for refugees in Uganda and volunteering with Solidaritee to ensure refugees have access to legal aid service in Europe.

I believe these experiences would prepare me for the next phase of my career. Hopefully, in the coming years, I will pursue a PhD.

What does a typical weekday look like for you as a student at SPS?

I had most classes online because of the Covid-19 pandemic. I had some on-site classes, too, at the Holyrood campus and Appleton Tower. I prefer to walk - it is my way of exercising. Most days I use google calendar to set my schedules, and at the end of each day, I set what I will do the next day.

I live in University accommodation and it is okay to study in your room. I prefer to do study in my room and have conversations at tutorial sessions.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, I often invite a course mate to have a social-distanced walk and get a coffee at Uplands Roast near the Library. The walk has been one of my greatest highlights on campus.

What are your highlights from your time at the School of Social and Political Science?

My greatest highlight was winning the Ufahamu Africa student essay contest and I dedicate this to my tutor Dr Rama Dieng who constantly share opportunities with us.

I enjoyed the one-on-one coaching during office hours and the push to do more. When Dr Dieng tagged me on Twitter to apply for the student essay contest I thought it would be an opportunity to lend my voice to something. We were asked to write about reflecting on Life and Politics in Africa, and I decided to write about the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria. #EndSARS is a movement started by young people in Nigeria to end police brutality. Drawing from lessons, theories, and concepts from the courses I took in Africa and International Development, I was able to document young people's experiences during the movement and historicize movement building and revolution. It was a great time to be a student and contribute to a movement. I came top in the essay contest and featured in a podcast where think tanks and professors such as Wole Soyinka have been featured. I dedicate this to my coursemates, lecturers in the Centre of African studies and Dr Dieng for tagging me and for the push.

Knowing what you do now, what would you say to your past self before starting the course?

I thought I knew about development and Africa, but the course allowed me to question my bias for development and question my prejudice about the region. I wasn’t self-aware enough before starting the course, but I think I understand my role and position better now as a pan-African.

I would say to my past self to be open, to question things and to seek knowledge. To keep asking how I know what I know, why does someone say what they say. Why do I even say what I say?

University life

Are you involved in any student societies?

I joined the SolidariTee student’s charity group. I did not join any core student society.

Where have you lived while studying at Edinburgh?

I lived in student accommodation at Buccleuch Place. It is just five minutes away from the main Library and not far from the supermarkets. I think it is good to stay in a student area or live with a colleague or students. It allows you to debrief things and also share worries.

What has your University experience been like, in just three words?!

Adventurous, breathing and vulnerability.

If you recommend ONE thing to do in the first semester what would it be?

Focus on your studies, have a good schedule for your work and volunteer in-between if you can. Take a student leadership role. Meet people, if it is safe to do so and visit Arthur’s Seat. 

I think balance is the key; one activity should not affect another. More importantly, take advantage of office hours.

The City of Edinburgh

What are your favourite things to do in Edinburgh at the weekend?

I take a walk most days with a classmate. I enjoyed walking in the Meadows and sharing thoughts, having a coffee and a one-on-one conversation.

City of Edinburgh top tip or hidden gem?

Take a walking tour with Alistair Hector - you will not regret it. You will learn a lot about Edinburgh and the popular Greysfriars Bobby.

Have you had a part-time job while you’ve been in Edinburgh?

I did not take any part-time role, however, I did a lot of voluntary work and internships. I even organized fundraising for two out-of-school children in Nigeria and am contributing to education and youth development conversations/programmes in my country.

The trick is excellent time management skills. Schedule everything you do, from lectures to volunteering, to working and all.

I would advise you not to work the first semester as you are finding a rhythm. Once you have found your rhythm, you are good to go. I think I found my rhythm in the second semester.

I am also participating in the Edinburgh Award, which is good to have on your CV and for personal and professional development.