This startup is banking on the diaspora to help plug Nigeria’s education shortcomings

Getting schooled.
Getting schooled.
Image: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde
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Getting a good education is out of reach for many Nigerian students. For some, it is due to a lack of knowledge about existing opportunities while for others, it’s simply down to a lack of means.

ScholarX, a social impact educational startup, is tackling both problems. In 2016, it launched a scholarship aggregation app as an “opportunity bridge” to help interested students find undergraduate and graduate opportunities locally and abroad. It lists scholarships based on students’ preferences and provides tips for successful applications. So far, it has garnered over 10,000 users.

But in trying to connect students with opportunities, Bola Lawal, co-founder of ScholarX, says the company soon realized that many were also lacking in means to pay scholarship application fees much less school fees. So, last September, ScholarX launched Village, a crowdfunding platform which allows professionals, mainly in the diaspora, sponsor the education of students in need. Essentially, it is building a business model around the popular saying “It takes a village to raise a child.”

On the Village platform, high school and university students in need of support for their education create profiles, share their stories and needs, and hope a donor supports them. Village has received nearly 500 fund requests and raised around $10,000 in donations (90% have come from donors in the diaspora) in its first five months of operation, according to Lawal.

ScholarX is also hoping to allow donors sponsor educational projects in schools such as equipping a laboratory, in a bid to solve education-related problems in Nigeria. Some of those problems are poorly equipped schools, unpaid teachers and a significant literacy problem with around 10.5 million children out of school.Things are unlikely to change significantly anytime soon. In proposed 2018 budget, only 7% of the total  has been allocated to education—far below UN’s 26% recommendation.

So far, ScholarX has been mostly bootstrapped by its founders but it charges a 10% fee per funding campaign on Village and 1,000 naira ($3) annual fee for premium access to ScholarX app. It also makes money from managing scholarships by local organizations and individuals.