Edinburgh Welcomes Mastercard Foundation Scholars
The Mastercard Foundation has provided scholarships so that some 200 African students can study at the University of Edinburgh. The first twelve scholars have arrived for the 2016-2017 University session – we spoke to three of them about their passions and interests.
What is the Mastercard Foundation?
The massive sum of the scholarship - $27 million – will provide 80 undergraduates and 120 postgraduates in a range of different academic disciplines with full scholarships. In addition, 60 scholars based at home will utilise the impressive academics offered through University of Edinburgh courses by participating in online distance learning Master’s programmes. In removing the financial barriers that might have otherwise prevented these scholars from studying abroad, particularly at a prestigious university, this scholarship will ensure the community at the University is richer, the culture and knowledge exchange that occurs on campus more dynamic. The partnership the University of Edinburgh has with the Mastercard Foundation is the first of its kind in Europe.
The University of Edinburgh and Africa
The University of Edinburgh has strong ties to Africa. We are connected to African culture, language and development thanks to our impressive students – both those visiting from Africa and those who have gone to Africa for additional courses and field work. Famous alumni include Julius Nyerere, leader of independence in Tanzania, and Justice Julia Sebutinde, a Judge of the High Court of Uganda. The wide range of taught Masters available to students through the Centre of African Studies includes an MSc in African Studies and an MSc Africa & International Development. Research is also done by students completing their PhD in African Studies.
The African Studies programme at Edinburgh is currently in the top five of best Middle Eastern & African Studies programmes according to the independent UK University League Tables & Rankings. In addition, Swahili summer school has been running for the past few years, sending students to study Swahili in Tanzania and learn more about East African culture. The society, Edinburgh Swahili Club, offers free beginner classes every week.
What Kushmandi was most looking forward to before coming to Edinburgh: “To know more about different cultures, religions and traditions."
It is initiatives such as these that have made the University so appealing to MCF scholars. This year’s students are also looking forward to engaging with the dynamic community at Edinburgh. Kushmandi, from Mauritius, told us that before she came to Edinburgh, one of the things she was most looking forward to was “to know more about different cultures, religions and traditions.”
It is also important for the students visiting to dispel presumptions some students might have about them; student Vanessa Ombura was concerned of “being perceived as a country and/or continent, and not an individual.” Breaking these pre-conceived notions we may have about one another’s country of origin or culture requires providing students opportunities to engage with other people who aren’t necessarily of the same background. Kushmandi recognised that it can be “a bit challenging to have a diverse circle of friends.” She hopes to “move out of [her] comfort zone” by joining extracurricular activities.
These scholars are among the more ambitious from their home countries. They are dedicated to becoming leaders within their communities and to improving the lives of countless more when they return home to Africa.
What Anita wants to take away from her experience: "Volunteerism is definitely top on the list. a mandatory field."
The empathy and skills these students have is evident in the community engagement they’ve had so far; PG Environment and Development student Anita, from Kenya, has already joined “the dirty Weekenders, who volunteer to do various clean-up activities over the weekend to ensure Edinburgh remains clean.” She says “volunteerism is definitely top on the list” of things she wants to take away from her experience in Edinburgh. These scholars have the empathy and skill to enact initiatives and lead improvements as they have also faced some challenges growing up. They come from economically disadvantaged communities, which has not stopped them from achieving academic excellence, commitment to community development and the potential to be their generation’s next leaders.
A packed schedule
While here, the scholars will participate in UK and Africa based Summer Schools. This may also include a UK based placement. This will provide them some more practical skills to becoming the impressive alumni they have the potential to be. Anita is excited about expanding on her academic skills and transferring her knowledge back home. One of these skills will be leadership, which will be nurtured at a retreat designed for the scholars. They also hope to develop this through extracurricular activities; Vanessa has joined the Women in STEM society and Kushmandi is hoping to join HYPED students in revolutionising transportation. To aid the goals they have for community improvement, they will complete a course on African development and engage in a volunteering project in their home country. The University of Edinburgh will continue to support these efforts when they return to their home country, prepared to lead their communities and push their ideas to the next level.
Following their graduation, around 50% of our undergraduate Scholars will then be supported to complete distance learning Master’s degrees after their return to Africa.