Programmed to succeed
As the University welcomes its third cohort of Mastercard Foundation scholars, we chat with three graduates who have completed the programme and are applying their new knowledge at work.
The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is all about developing Africa’s next generation of leaders. The program allows students whose talent and promise exceed their financial resources to complete their education.
The programme provides financial, social, and academic support to its scholars, including tuition fees, accommodation, books, and other scholastic materials.
Since 2009, the programme has committed more than $700 million to supporting the education and leadership development of more than 30,000 young people studying at institutions around the world, with $23 million allocated to the University of Edinburgh.
It’s a partnership that demonstrates a shared aim to provide positive social and economic change for promising African students with great potential but few educational opportunities, and one that is already reaping benefits for its graduates and their chosen careers.
Muhammad Musa is from Sudan. He studied Sustainable Energy Systems at the School of Engineering and now works as an Energy Consultant for the UK’s largest electricity distributor, UK Power Networks.
Q. Why did you apply for the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program?
When I applied I hoped to be able to add a value to the wider Mastercard Foundation network whose ethos is to empower young Africans to find opportunities to move themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty to a better life. So I wanted to be an effective member and a clean energy advocate, and that really shaped my time in Edinburgh.
I was interested in learning as much as I could about how things are done, which policies are being set up in support of the clean energy transition, and how these can be amended and reshaped to fit my home country, Sudan.
I hope to see a day when Sudan is self-dependant and has high living standards. And I aspire to be part of the generation who helps it achieve that. As a sustainable energy engineer, I can contribute by providing energy access to those who need it, helping them live better lives, and allowing them to take advantage of the great benefits that better electricity access can offer them.
Q. How vital are initiatives like these to students from Sudan and other African nations?
I can’t stress enough how important such scholarship initiatives are to Sudanese students. Due to the current economic situation in Sudan, it’s impossible for an average family to be able to support their children to go to universities, let alone studying abroad. Some universities try to help by lowering the tuition fees or waiving the fee. Theoretically, this is should help. But living expenses are still a great barrier for students wishing to peruse the dream of studying abroad.
A quote that has always resonated in my head is: “What if the cure for Cancer was trapped inside the mind of someone who can’t afford an education?” It always gets me – the future of Sudan and its people falls in the hands of the current generation and the one after that. But how can we do things differently if we aren’t given the chance to see the world differently?
Q. What have you done since graduating in 2017?
At UK Power Networks I’m part of an energy & technology consultancy team, working to provide electrical vehicle infrastructure and energy storage solutions to big organisations, such as airports.
I hope to gain enough understanding and experience from my work to be able to apply it back home in a way that can help the energy sector in Sudan.
Soufia Bham is from Mauritius and studied Global Health and Public Policy. She has gone on to work with SIDS Youth AIMS Hub – a youth-led non-governmental organisation focused on advancing and implementing youth-led sustainable development in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) found in the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, and South China Sea region.
Q. What did you hope to achieve by joining the Mastercard Scholars Program?
I applied for the scholars programme in 2016, as I hoped a postgraduate degree would help me to refine the focus of my activism as well as to learn more about the impact of politics on health and healthcare access.
I was particularly attracted to the Mastercard Foundations Scholars program because it not only provided the opportunity to get a degree but also to engage with a wider community, and work on aspects of personal development that are important to me. From this programme, I hoped to gain a set of transformative leadership skills that I could then bring back into my own work in my home country and region.
Q. What aspects of the programme and your studies at Edinburgh do you feel were particularly pertinent to you and Mauritius?
Initiatives like these are central to levelling the playing field when it comes to educational opportunities in Mauritius and across the African continent. The reality is that very often, we aren’t even aware that opportunities like this exist – I found out about the scholarship on Twitter!
I grew up surrounded by brilliant people who have had to make a choice between studying and making a living to support their families. Opportunities like the scholars programme take into consideration your path and give you a good shot at fulfilling your potential.
Q. What was the highlight of your time at Edinburgh?
It’s very hard for me to pick one highlight from my Edinburgh experience. I think one of the most important aspects of it for me was how we ended up building this community of scholars and supporters of the programme. I personally learned a lot from the Edinburgh partners – Tribe Porty, Studio Something, and the amazing group of social entrepreneurs who took the time to speak to us about their work and answer our questions. Having people who work in the field of Global Health policy delivering guest lectures on the practical aspects of this field definitely added to the pertinence of my course.
Q. How has your career developed since graduation?
I’m working on a project called the Tap Water Revolution, which focuses on advocacy and action towards increasing access to potable tap water across Mauritius and, hopefully, the region in the near future. Through this project I am learning a lot about the ways in which the struggles for environmental protection and against health inequalities overlap. I hope that I will go on to apply these insights into my own activism and engagement with communities.
Dorcas hails from Ghana and came to Edinburgh to study Africa and International Development. She currently works with Challenges Group Ghana – part of a collection of worldwide service and software social businesses – as a Project Delivery Manager.
Q. Why did you apply to be part of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program?
I’ve always been passionate about the process of change economically and socially for people in Ghana and the African continent. It has been my dream to contribute my quota to that change. I was extremely fascinated by the course specifically a question it posed – what is good change? I got hooked and wanted to pursue answers to this. I wanted to know how I can strategically contribute to change on the continent by acquiring knowledge about what has worked, what hasn’t, and what can be tried and tested.
Q. How vital do you feel initiatives like the Scholars Program are to students from Ghana?
Initiatives of this kind can be transformational for participants and their communities. The Mastercard Foundation scholarship has impacted the lives of many students from low income backgrounds in Ghana. The opportunity it gives to be educated whilst experiencing life and culture elsewhere is priceless. The experience and value-added initiatives undertaken by the Foundation not only built my confidence but also helped me find my voice
Q. What was the highlight of your time as a Mastercard Foundation scholar?
On a weekly basis my highlight was church. It was a great experience to be connected to people of faith in a family of believers – this was priceless, particularly as a stranger in a new city.
I also had the opportunity to join the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford as an Emerging Leader. That was exceptional! Meeting social entrepreneurs from all over the world and feasting on their enthusiasm, with the opportunity to also share a bit of who I am and my journey, was indeed a precious gift from my entire Edinburgh experience.
And finally, I must say that the impressive Mastercard Foundation team and cohort made living in Edinburgh a rewarding experience.
Q. What are you doing now and what do you hope do in the future?
I’ve joined Challenges Group Ghana to support its mission of creating prosperity for individuals, households and communities in emerging markets through developing and creating opportunities for SME growth in the private sector. This opportunity allows me combine my prior knowledge in business administration with development – using businesses to drive their desired economic and social development.
In the future, I seek to help develop agricultural value chains in Ghana. I’m also keen to explore opportunities in housing, railway and education in Ghana.
If you would like to find out more about the University’s scholarships programme and opportunities to support it, please contact Zoe Kelly on 0131 650 2395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.