The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Programme, with its emphasis on leadership development and education, was recently launched in Smuts Hall at an event where the speakers included Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price, president of the Mastercard Foundation Reeta Roy, and Miranda Nyathi, a current foundation scholar.
The majority of the 300 Mastercard Foundation scholarships intended for UCT will be for students from the rest of the continent looking to study at a postgraduate level. Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price hopes that this will encourage Africans studying abroad to return to the continent, helping reverse the brain drain.
Price was speaking at the launch of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Programme, a project commencing next year that sees the university receiving more than R250-million in grants over ten years. He reported that a selection panel is reviewing 95 postgraduate and 69 undergraduate applications from which a total of 20 successful candidates will be chosen for enrolment in 2015. Of the 300 students that will eventually be chosen to participate in the programme, 60 will be from South Africa and 240 from other African countries.
"Since funding for students that are not South African is so limited, particularly at the postgraduate level, these fellowships will close a critical gap in the funding and scholarship environment. It is also our hope that offering postgraduate qualifications to Mastercard Foundation scholars means that many of those who had studied in America and elsewhere for their first degree would come back to an African institution and that, hopefully, this will help to reverse the brain drain that we experience so severely," explained Price.
Miranda Nyathi, a Mastercard Foundation scholar who will soon graduate with a BSc in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, believes the scholarship she received will help her live out her passion for education. However, instead of studying towards an education degree next year, she will pursue an honour's degree focused on the mathematics of computer science.
"When I reveal I want to be teacher one day, everyone asks me why I don't get my BEd right away. My reply to them is that I have the passion [for education], but I feel like what I have the most to give to my students is the content, and I would like to get that right first," said Nyathi – who used to help older learners with maths when she was still at school.
Focused on Africa
Reeta Roy, president and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation, stated that individuals like Nyathi are exactly who the foundation looks to uplift. "We are seeking young people with the commitment, zeal, ambition and the motivation to do something with their lives, who also see their lives as an instrument for change and of hope."
The programme, according to Roy, is the foundation's "single largest initiative" to which it has committed $500-million to provide secondary and tertiary education to 15 000 young people. "We made a commitment very early on that we would concentrate our resources, time and energy on this continent because we see not only a youthful continent, we also see rapid growth."
Price commended the foundation for its focus on Africa, maintaining that those who benefit from the programme are not the brightest academic stars. "The explicit goal of the programme is to find the poorest of the poor, who have already demonstrated the spirit to overcome their circumstances and to make a difference in the world. Most of them have worked as mentors. Some have already established organisations. All of them have passion for building Africa and their own communities. They have already achieved so much. Imagine harnessing their passion by giving them the further tools that higher education offers," he concluded.
Story by Abigail Calata. Photo by Michael Hammond.
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