Education as a Gateway to Opportunities: All for One, One for ALL!

“All for one, one for all!”
For all those who managed to join the last ASU Talk on Sunday the 30th of May, I am sure you already know what I mean by the title. Mohammed Bouya Maalainine amazed us all with his enthusiasm to help students from Africa access better education opportunities. He has set up a very interesting system and has managed to establish an initiative that can help thousands of students in the very near future. To be more mindful, we are not talking about a simple way of giving away scholarships but rather a system that helps to improve access to quality education. As Bouya says, making education tuition-free does not necessarily make it entirely free.

How was “Isachamp” born?
“The principle is simple; we identify hyper-talented students across Africa, make an assessment and grant them a scholarship. Once they are in a better place financially and career-wise, they help two other students. Basically, making an impact in one person’s results in impacting two more and from those two more the same principle is forwarded to four more. This way the whole initiative grows exponentially.”

One interesting fact, Isachamp was actually a project that would allow the students to get loans for their education. However, soon enough Bouya and his team realized that they didn’t have to bind the students with a contract because the gratitude they had for the help they had received was so great that they wanted to help even more than they were obliged to. This was how they transitioned from the loan system to non-repayable scholarships. Students themselves choose how to support two more students. Be it a percentage of their salary or a percentage of the overall revenue of their company.

Isachamp was established in 2018. The shift in strategy took place in 2019 and currently there are around 200 members enrolled in the circle. Since its inception, Isachamp helps students with their expenses other than the tuition fees as well. Like the visa costs, tickets or anything else that could restrain a  student from having access to the education opportunity they had managed to receive.

people joining hands

Our empathy grows bigger when we experience something similar ourselves. Bouya had to go through a difficult period after losing his father, whom he had promised that he would continue with his education. He used to be the top student in his class and received an invitation to study in MIT. Unfortunately, his family could not afford to pay even for the application fees at the time. He later on managed to receive another scholarship and continue his studies. However this life changing experience was what inspired him to start the Isachamp project.

“Had I not gotten a scholarship, I would have probably been a wasted talent for the continent.”

Bouya currently lives in Estonia. He went to university in Morocco where he used to study Financial Engineering at first. He ended up switching his major after noticing that the education program would not meet his expectations. He received a scholarship to study in the African Leadership University which was a newly established university and had more innovative education programs. He studied Computer Sciences, Entrepreneurship and Leadership there.

Bouya shared one of the most inspirational stories with us. He told the story of a student who received scholarship from Isachamp. He was a student from Nigeria in the USA who had already won a scholarship to study there. However, he was requested to pay 5000 USD as a family contribution. He raised some of it but ended up being 1500 USD short and eventually had to drop out. He was only able to attend the lectures but was not allowed to take the exams. He had applied to Isachamp for the missing amount. His application was accepted and he paid the 1500 USD to the university and actually was offered an internship at Facebook that very same year. With the salary from Facebook he paid back to Isachamp and volunteered to pay forward for two more students.

Bouya described Isachamp and what he does as a life-long mission. It’s not something he decided to pursue in one day but rather something that his whole life had been circling around and everything he has been through has led him to this point. The only way to handle the overwhelming side of it, according to Bouya, is to remember that he is on a mission and keep pushing forward with all the support he has managed to receive.

Article written by: Özlem Sali