The program aims to prepare young individuals from diverse backgrounds with the mindset and skills to enrich their communities. The inaugural announcement of the partnership took place at the University recently and will see a total of 500 students receiving financial support over the next seven years.
Under the banner, “Developing Africa’s Next Generation of Transformative Leaders”, UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor Professor Tyrone Pretorius applauded the first cohort of beneficiaries, who had undergone a rigorous selection process.
“This initiative is a testament to the shared belief of the University of the Western Cape and the Mastercard Foundation in the transformative power of education. I stand before you as an example of that transformative power of education. The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program signifies a step towards a future where young minds from diverse backgrounds gather to convert challenges into opportunities,” said Prof Pretorius.
The scholarship program focuses on high achieving young scholars from Africa who are socially and financially impeded in accessing university education, with a strong emphasis on young women.
“The Scholars Program creates designated spaces for refugees and displaced youth and persons with disability in fields/disciplines agreed upon with the Foundation for a cohort of 250 undergraduate and 250 Master’s scholars,” says the Acting Director of the Scholars Program at UWC, Professor Ramesh Bharuthram.
“Twenty-five percent of our scholarships (125), are targeted at refugees and displaced youth and 10% (50) at persons with a disability. Being a program that is designed for the advancement of the entire African continent, 20% of our scholars (100) must be international students from the rest of Africa and 70% (350) of our scholars must be young women.”
Basirat Agboola of the Mastercard Foundation, the 'lead' person in the engagement with UWC, called on current and future grant beneficiaries to utilise the opportunity to the fullest.
“You have been selected because of your potential and your desire to affect change in your communities. To give back is a sense of personal obligation to family structures and the broader communities and essentially you will be supported to find your way of giving back in the Program. We give you tools to design projects in an area that is meaningful to you.”
The process to secure the grant took just over 18 months. Applications for the 2023 scholarships were thoroughly screened and selected, leading to the inaugural cohort of 20 Master’s degree beneficiaries.
Thozama Ntobela, studying for a Master of Arts in Linguistics, as one of the scholarship recipients states: “One thing we all share in the room, especially the recipients of the bursary, is that the scholarship will transform our lives for the better. I am able to be here as a result of the Mastercard Foundation. They showed us the dream can be achieved through education and giving up is not an option.”
The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program envisions a transformative network of young people and institutions driving inclusive and equitable socio-economic change in Africa. Since launching in 2012, the Program has supported almost 40 000 young people in Africa to pursue secondary or tertiary education.