The MasterCard Foundation has initiated a new scholars program that will enable talented but vulnerable Rwandans to compete for 15,000 new scholarships for university students set aside for Africans in the next thirty one years.
This means, on average, 483 scholarships every year.
This is part of the foundation’s bid to expand its activities in Africa starting with the scholars program of which Rwanda is partially a beneficiary among the 36,000 students currently in the $800 million program for secondary school in Africa.
The scholarship expansion to universities in Africa dubbed ‘Young Africa Works’ was announced this Tuesday in Kigali during a mobilization workshop organized by MasterCard foundation and Rwanda’s Ministry of education.
The workshop brought together leaders, thinkers, chancellors and experts in over 13 African universities.
The expansions- which will target funding young vulnerable but academically talented students till 2030, is aimed at scaling up the level of university education that responds to the Africa job needs and also create a young generation of African leaders.
Among the 15,000 vulnerable academically applicants for the scholarships, will be young refugees (25%) and women (70%). The remaining 5% will be dedicated to men.
In Rwanda, the foundation sponsors some female students through the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Rwanda and a few of the female university students that have been able to benefit from the program, according to officials of University of Rwanda (UR).
The MasterCard Foundation scholars program for universities is currently in 24 countries globally of which ten of them are in Africa and Rwanda- which is host to some of the universities is looking to be one of the contenders to be officially selected to offer similar scholarship courtesy of the foundation.
Among the African universities are: Kwame Nkrumah University, Makerere University in Uganda, Ashesi Ghana, Abomey-Calavi in Benin, University of Cape Town South Africa, University of Gondor in Ethiopia, Africa leadership academy in South Africa, Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda (CMU), forum for African women educationalists in Rwanda and Ethiopia, Africa Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in South Africa, Rwanda, Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana and Tanzania.
Though Rwanda appears in this list of the scholars program, the local universities like University of Rwanda (UR) have not been included in the university scholarship program, according to Peter Materu, the Chief Program Officer MasterCard Foundation.
“Rwanda missed out when we asked for applications from universities. They didn’t apply but this time I hope to see some universities from Rwanda, that is why we are here to create awareness,” Materu said.
The foundation says that they want to add seven African universities on the number of African institutions of higher learning – which are ten.
In order for other seven universities in Africa to enter the MasterCard scholars program; Materu said that Rwanda universities will be required to meet the set standards, even when the workshop is happening in Rwanda.
Some of the standards include showing a high level of innovation in education and kinds of programs that respond to youth employment, leadership and the way the institution is run, creating partnerships with other universities among others.
The foundation says that universities must also show a level of student’s access, accommodate, provide holistic support on education, mental and careers counseling and leadership development.
“We are going to be discussing these criteria with universities, the goal is to succeed but we also want to learn from these lessons as institutions grow,” Materu said.
Materu explained that Rwanda missed out on the application for universities, just like Kenya and Tanzania because they didn’t submit their applications among other applicants.
MasterCard officials in Rwanda explained this miss out saying that there were already some foundation activities with partner institution, which needed to be streamlined.
However, they indicated that there is now need to have a concerted effort to have other local universities on board.
“This year it is clear for us that the University of Rwanda and African Leadership University (ALU) are important partners and will be among those we will be looking at today,” said Shona Bezanson, the foundation Head of Eastern and Southern Partner Network, who oversees Scholars Program activities in Rwanda.
In this concerted effort, Dr Charles Muligande, the Deputy Vice Chancellor University of Rwanda, in order for Rwanda to have an impactful education it needs to go back on the drawing board to review the university education system and syllabus which he said was not reflecting current job needs.
“We need to have a new syllabus work on with the help of industrial partners, but also send both teachers and students to learn directly from the field in order to deliver,”
Williams Ellis, a professor at the Kwame Nkrumah University of science and technology in Kumasi, Ghana said that Rwanda could learn from Ghana if it focuses on several partnerships and setting up facilities that provide practical education on the international level.