May 12, 2023

From Tweets to University: Ethiopian High Schooler's Journey to a Canadian Scholarship

City: Addis AbabaEducationTechBusiness

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, Kirubel refused to give up hope.

Avatar: Ilyas Kifle
By Ilyas Kifle

Ilyas is a reporter at Addis Zeybe experienced in creative writing and content production.

From Tweets to University: Ethiopian High Schooler's Journey to a Canadian Scholarship

Kirubel Abiyou, a 19-year-old Ethiopian student, has overcome numerous challenges to secure a scholarship to study at the University of Alberta in Canada, thanks to the power of social media and the kindness of strangers.

Kirubel attended Beteseb Academy, a high school in Addis Ababa, and dreamed of studying abroad. So in March 2021, he began tweeting daily, asking for financial assistance to apply to Canadian universities. He started with a tweet that said, "Day 1 of asking Chamath for 250 C$ to apply at University of British Columbia".

For the next 161 days, Kirubel continued to tweet daily, seeking help to pay his application fee. Finally, his persistence paid off when Chamath Palihapitiya, a renowned venture capitalist, replied to one of his tweets in September 2021, promising to pay Kirubel's tuition fees if he could get accepted into a Canadian university.

Chamath Palihapitiya is a venture capitalist and philanthropist in Silicon Valley, California. He is the founder and CEO of Social Capital, a technology-focused investment firm, and has invested in several successful startups, including Slack, Box, and Yammer. Palihapitiya is also known for his philanthropic work, having donated millions of dollars to various causes, including education and healthcare initiatives.

With a generous donor's help, Kirubel found the money to pay his application fee. However, his entrance exam was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the armed conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, which made it difficult for him to secure the necessary documentation.

Despite these obstacles, Kirubel remained determined to continue his studies. Finally, in April 2023, Kirubel received an offer of admission from the University of Alberta, shared his admission letter on social media, and reminded the philanthropist about his promise on Twitter. Chamath was thrilled by the story, assured the boy that he would pay his school tuition, and slid into his direct messages to discuss the details.

The story went viral on Elon Musk's owned platform, and Chamath returned to Twitter to celebrate the news. He tweeted, "I told an Ethiopian kid that if he got into a Canadian university, I would pay for it. Eighteen months and one civil war later, he got into Alberta! Congrats to him...human resilience and drive are still alive!!!"

Addis Zeybe's efforts to get the development of the story were not successful. We will get back to you when we get a response from the actors involved in the story.