MasterCard Foundation Scholars are turning ideas into action

10 May 2016 | Story Chido Mbambe and Yusuf Omar. Photo Michael Hammond.
MasterCard Foundation Scholars Fadzai Muramba (left) and Christina Nyandoro (right) believe the opportunity afforded them will open many doors for their future in terms of career and personal development. Both scholars should graduate in December.
MasterCard Foundation Scholars Fadzai Muramba (left) and Christina Nyandoro (right) believe the opportunity afforded them will open many doors for their future in terms of career and personal development. Both scholars should graduate in December.

UCT MasterCard Foundation Scholars Fadzai Muramba and Christina Nyandoro recently spent a few days in the USA where they attended the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) 2016 meeting at the University of California, Berkley. They spent time learning about ploughing back into their communities and the various commitments of other scholars from around the world.

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program is an education initiative that to date has committed over $700 million to develop next generation leaders who are committed to leading positive social and economic change in Africa. UCT has partnered with The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program to provide scholarships to academically talented yet economically disadvantaged students in sub-Saharan Africa to pursue undergraduate or postgraduate (honours and master's) studies at UCT.

Muramba, who is completing her master's in development studies, was drawn to apply for the MasterCard Foundation scholarship because of the additional support the programme gives its scholars.

“I really wanted an opportunity to do postgrad studies and MasterCard offered me more than that. It offered to support my research, to provide leadership training and classes so I can become more than just a good graduate student,” says Muramba. “UCT is the best university in Africa and I wanted an opportunity to study here and be among the best.”

Nyandoro, who is doing her master's in commercial law, came to UCT after being awarded the scholarship.

“I'm a first-generation student, so I'll be the first in my family to graduate,” says Nyandoro. “I was drawn to the scholarship because its main emphasis wasn't only academics. The leadership experience was also one of the requirements, so my previous leadership experience drew me to apply.”

The conference has inspired both Muramba and Nyandoro to launch effective and inclusive social movements within their own communities back in Zimbabwe, and to appreciate diversity.

“The MasterCard scholars are from different countries in Africa, so we come from different backgrounds, and the advantage is that we get to appreciate one another irrespective of the culture or background we're from,” says Nyandoro.

Muramba says, “It's given me the opportunity to meet scholars from other African countries and engage with them on a personal level, and you rarely get that opportunity back home. Being in meetings with them and conversing with them, you get to understand what it's like to live in Malawi or Kenya, for instance – a perspective you'd never get if you didn't have that close relationship.”

The conference kicked off with a networking reception where the two UCT students met and shared ideas with fellow CGI U students. President Bill Clinton, the founding chairman of the Clinton Global Initiative, opened the conference and had a panel discussion with successful innovators who had managed to start out and scale up their ideas despite having limited resources.

While attending the CGI U 2016 meeting, the pair took part in the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Workshop, which is organised in conjunction with the CGI U. The workshop was aimed at giving scholars the opportunity to interact with experts and mentors to develop their leadership skills and to network among themselves. There were several breakout sessions: Muramba attended 'From Mobiles to Drones: The Next Leapfrog Technologies' and Nyandoro attended 'Beyond Diversity: Inclusion and Empowerment Starts on Campus'.

“The 'From Mobile to Drones: The Next Leapfrog Technologies' session covered how the world is moving at such a fast pace in terms of technology. How we jumped from landlines to cellphones and now people are starting to use drones in amazing ways, like delivering medication to rural places and to deliver internet access to remote places … with the use of drones you can change the world without having to put infrastructure in place. We can do what we need to get done fast,” explains Muramba.

The session attended by Nyandoro, 'Beyond Diversity: Inclusion and Empowerment Starts on Campus', addressed racial inequality and injustice in American society.

“Its main focus was on diversity in order to fight injustice and inequality on campus. … in order for transformation to happen, an inclusive classroom environment that reflects diversity need[s] to be built,” says Nyandoro.

The pair spent their last day painting murals and cleaning facilities as part of the Day of Action community service at Havenscourt Campus in Oakland, California. The campus houses five separate schools ranging from pre-school to high school and serves more than 1 500 students each day.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – a unique opportunity to meet other scholars from different universities worldwide and share our ideas on the commitment action plans that each student had. I learnt a lot on how you can give back to the community,” says Nyandoro. “At the end of the day, as a leader you have to plough back into the community. Don't expect someone to tell you to do things; fundraise on your own to achieve what you need to for the community.”

Muramba plans to get a taste of the corporate world after completing her studies.

“If I ever came back for a PhD, I plan to use what I learnt in industry as a launching pad for my research,” says Muramba. “After attending the CGI U conference, I really felt drawn to the theme of making a commitment action and following a particular challenge in your community and aiming to make some form of change. So I plan to use the commitment I proposed to CGIU as my first step to giving back.”

Nyandoro has no plans to study further yet, but would like to explore opportunities in industry.

“Although I'm a commercial law student, I also have an interest in women's rights and children's rights, so I plan to do work in improving women and children's rights back in Zimbabwe. That's how I intend to plough back into my community – by focusing on those areas,” says Nyandoro.

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