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Managing Academic Referees (3/3)

This series of posts, from the Open Dreams Graduate Mentorship WhatsApp Group, was inspired by the recurrent challenges of getting reference letters from some university lecturers. Go to this link for the first post and to this link for the second post

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Understanding relationships with referees

I have been saddened to learn that in these difficult times, people lose scholarships because the references are not received. As heartbreaking as this is, I think that it points to deep relationship issues that we have in our communities.

We need to rethink our relationships as humans and then consider why we will want some people to engage with us on things like this.

With recommendations, if the best (or preferred) referee is not available at some point, a new referee should be engaged. The application process is very demanding and the outcome, in part, relies on someone who may not be available for his or her own role.


Relationships like other things in life need investment. If you have saved nothing, you cannot withdraw something. It actually helps a lot when the recommender writes from a position of deep connection and conviction. The other end is having some high-level official write a letter that has no bearing with one’s abilities and suitability for an offering; this is purely out of duty.


I personally don’t feel motivated when relationships are only “transactional”. I’m referring to the situation where one only shows up when they need something and in this case, a reference letter. This will make a referee to not connect enough with you to care about the implication of their action or inaction. We can and should get people who know us well and can truly write about us. We have already been guided to know that it is not the title of the referee that really matters.

In any case, it is challenging and I hope that these learning experiences will build up to that moment of celebration that you look forward to. Wishing us all the best.

In a bit to facilitate the application process for Scholars and generally improve on productivity, we launched Errand Services in January 2020. We have mostly worked in Buea and hope to extend to other regions in the next three months.

We assist students with the whole process from application of transcripts to mailing. We have successfully done this for several students. No need to travel to Buea or repeatedly visit the campus.

We still had a case that got us checking the office more than 20 times to get the HOD to sign the documents. But if that is what is required to get it, we should plan to make that investment.

Picture: One of the documents Managed by errand services.


If you need such services in Buea. Please reach out to Errand Services on (+237) 676410426/(+237) 672211999 and get things sorted out

- Mpara Faith (TechWomen fellow 2017), New Generation Technologies (ngtltd.com), Lead for the ICT4KIDS Project.


(N.B. This laudable service is exclusively an initiative of "Errand Services", to relieve students of the burden of fetching academic documents; it is not an Open Dreams initiative)


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