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Five African Sportsmen Who Have Educational Degrees

These athletes are great examples of how pursuing higher education can complement a successful career in sports and provide opportunities beyond their sporting careers.

  • Toyosi Afolayan
  • 7th April 2023

Education is a fundamental human right and a key to personal and societal development. It plays a critical role in personal and societal development, and it is widely considered a fundamental human right. 


However, it can be challenging for Africans to balance their education with their sports career, especially if they come from low-income backgrounds or face other social and economic obstacles. However, many African sportsmen have pursued education alongside their athletic careers, demonstrating that it is possible with dedication and hard work.


Some of the challenges that African sportsmen may face when trying to go to school include:


  • Lack of Access to Education: In some parts of Africa, there may be limited access to education, especially in rural areas or conflict zones. This can make it difficult for footballers to pursue their education.


  • Time Constraints: Football is a demanding sport that requires a significant amount of time and dedication. This can make it challenging for footballers to find the time to study and complete their schoolwork.


  • Financial Constraints: Education can be expensive, and many African footballers come from low-income backgrounds. They may struggle to afford tuition fees, books, and other necessary expenses.


Despite these challenges, many sportsmen from Africa have pursued education alongside their careers. They have demonstrated that with hard work, dedication, and support from their families, coaches, and communities, it is possible to succeed both on the field and in the classroom.


There are many African sportsmen who have gone to school and have used their education to become successful both on and off the field. Here are a few examples:


  • Taiwo Awoniyi: Super Eagles and Nottingham Forest forward Taiwo Awoniyi graduated from Buckinghamshire New University, Wycombe, in the United Kingdom, after completing a degree in Business Management.



  • Tendai Mtawarira: The former Rugby player went back to school in 2020 from the comfort of his home in Durban as the inaugural recipient of a special scholarship from Henley Business School Africa on a programme designed to help sports icons successfully transition from the change room to the boardroom.



  • Blessing Okagbare: The Nigerian track and field athlete graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in the United States with a degree in Business Management in 2010. While studying at UTEP, Okagbare competed for the school’s track and field team and won multiple NCAA Championships. Blessing Okagbare also has a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from Texas Tech University.



  • Sara Ahmed: She is an Egyptian weightlifter who has had a successful athletic career while also pursuing her education. Ahmed earned a degree in Commerce and Business Administration from Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt. During her time at Ain Shams University, Ahmed balanced her academic responsibilities with her weightlifting training and competitions. 



    L-R: Tendai Mtawarira and Sara Ahmed


  • Haile Gebrselassie: The former Ethiopian long-distance runner, has a university education. He attended Adama University (formerly known as Adama Science and Technology University) in Ethiopia and received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 2013. During his running career, Gebrselassie also established several successful business ventures, including a hotel and a coffee plantation in Ethiopia. His educational background in business likely played a role in his success as an entrepreneur.



These athletes are great examples of how pursuing higher education can complement a successful career in sports and provide opportunities beyond their sporting careers. There are several reasons why sportsmen need education, even if they have successful careers in sports. Here are a few:


  • Career After Retirement: Most sports careers are relatively short, and retirement from professional sports can happen early. With a good education, sportsmen can have a solid foundation for a second career after they retire from sports.


  • Financial Management: Sportsmen often make significant amounts of money during their careers, and education can help them manage their finances better. They can learn about investment options, tax planning, and other important financial aspects that can help them secure their future.


  • Personal Development: Education can help sportsmen develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills that can be useful in their personal lives. It can also help them broaden their knowledge base, gain new perspectives, and become well-rounded individuals.


  • Role Models: Sportsmen are often looked up to as role models, and having a good education can set a positive example for others. It can also help them use their platform to promote important causes and make a positive impact in society.


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