Hellen Namulinda is among the 478 Scholars who have just completed their A ‘levels, thanks to generosity and support of The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program at BRAC. Hellen is from a family of eight in Jinja district supported by a single mother who is a subsistence farmer. The low household-income was for long a barrier to achievement of Hellen’s aspirations. A fully funded scholarship by The MasterCard Foundation has made her dream come true.
“You cannot change your history, but you can change your destiny,” says an excited Hellen. Despite her challenging past she feels empowered to decide what her destiny will be. She has been studying physics, economics and mathematics and her dream is to pursue a career in banking and finance.
During her vacation Hellen who has been among the best performing students on the Program hopes to use her academic talent to tutor disadvantaged students in her community – a cornerstone of part of the scholarship mentorship program.
The MasterCard Foundation’s Deputy Director of Education and Learning, Kim Kerr, speaking exclusively to The Independent from Toronto, Canada while elated and proud of the achievements of the students supported by the Foundation, emphasised the challenges ahead and said, “we are proud to mark this important milestone in the lives of The MasterCard Foundation Scholars in the Program at BRAC. They have conquered great challenges to graduate from their secondary studies, but this is just the beginning. We have full confidence that these next-generation leaders will use their education to improve the lives of others and create change that matters within their community.”
But Hellen’s story is not peculiar. She is just one of the multitude of the gifted but deprived students in Uganda and Africa that face the challenge of financing their higher education.
Access to higher education remains a critical element in being able to equip young Africans to take advantage of opportunities and build a better future for them. The key for success in a globalised world lies increasingly in how effectively a country can assimilate the available knowledge and build comparative advantages in addressing development challenges.
Several interrelated factors explain this challenge to financing of higher education in Africa. Two factors partly explain the financing gap: First, the continent’s demographic trends have worsened the imbalances of supply and demand in the higher education market: Africa’s youth population, age 15–24, has quadrupled since the 1960’s. Because of demographic trends, the demand for higher education has been increasing faster than the funding capacity of African governments.
Second, public policies in the African context have long focused on primary and secondary education, to the detriment of tertiary education.
Sub-Saharan Africa therefore continues to be a region with troubling higher-education statistics.
In a bid to help bridge the financing gap and give hope to the aspirations of the millions of gifted but deprived students in Sub-Saharan Africa, The MasterCard Foundation through its philanthropic fund is championing higher education in Uganda in strategic partnership with BRAC since 2012. The MasterCard Foundation has been operating in Uganda since 2008 and funding higher education in partnership with Makerere University.
The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program was specifically set up to educate and develop academically qualified yet economically disadvantaged young people in Africa who will contribute to the transformation of the continent. The $500 million program provides students in secondary school and university with the knowledge and leadership skills needed to contribute to economic and social progress across Africa. Throughout their education, qualifying and sponsored scholars receive comprehensive financial, academic, and social support, as well as opportunities for community service and internships.
The target of the Foundation is to extend scholarships to at least 15,000 students in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2020.
This is the second graduation of The MasterCard Foundation scholars in Uganda.
According Ms. Grace Namata Sennoga, the Communication Manager, The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program at BRAC, “To date the Program has benefitted 4,472 students and is in the process of recruiting 528 Scholars for the 2016 entry and will support 5,000 students during its eight year span. Of the alumni that completed S6 in 2014, 25 qualified to join public universities on government sponsorship while 65 joined Makerere University and four other universities abroad with The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program.”
The MasterCard Foundation has university partners in the USA, Canada, Costa Rica, Lebanon, Ghana, South Africa and Makerere University in Uganda that provide quality university education opportunities to the Scholars. Many of the scholars have already applied for university scholarships from partner universities and will receive feedback next year.
The MasterCard Foundation is based in Toronto, Canada and was established by MasterCard in 2006. The Foundation works with visionary organisations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial inclusion programs for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest independent foundations, its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to alleviate poverty guides its work.
BRAC is the world’s largest development organisation dedicated to alleviating poverty by empowering the poor and creating opportunities to bring positive change in their lives. BRAC began operating in Uganda in 2006 and has reached 4.04m Ugandans through its various development interventions.