In Africa we are accustomed to highlighting poverty, hardship and disease and to take a rather dim view of the future awaiting our continent’s inhabitants. In recent years, however, Africa has experienced an economic and a political resurgence. New industries – manufacturing, telecommunications, banking, and agriculture – are flourishing. Yet Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest rates of secondary and higher education enrolment in the world. In order to sustain the continent’s dynamism, it is imperative for its young people to be equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the global economy.
The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program, a 10-year, $500 million global education initiative, provides access to quality secondary and higher education for young people who are committed to giving back to their communities. It combines global interest in advancing the continent with South African excellence. The program provides talented young people from economically disadvantaged communities, particularly in Africa, with access to quality and relevant education. It commenced at the University of Pretoria in 2014 and has since been extended to the University of Cape Town.
UP recently celebrated the enrolment of the 2015 cohort of scholars at a festive occasion. Forty-eight students (18 undergraduates, and 25 postgraduates ‒ with space for two more postgraduates) from all over the African continent embarked on their studies at UP.
The scholars were selected on the basis of academic excellence, lack of financial resources and their own potential for transformative leadership – the ability to become a leader not just for yourself, but to uplift the people around you as well. Herein lies the uniqueness of the programme – we build in the commitment to give back and also to go back to their home countries to make a sustainable difference to the future of our continent.
Prof Ana Naidoo, Deputy Director in the Department for Education Innovation, who oversees the programme, inspired the students with words she had read on a poster during their orientation visit to Freedom Park: ‘A dream is not a dream until shared by the entire community’. It is the communities the scholars will go back to that will show us the success of the programme at UP.
Prof De la Rey, Vice Chancellor and Principal, officially welcomed the 2015 cohort, also emphasised the importance of investing in themselves and their communities. She stated that The MasterCard Foundation Scholars will play a crucial role in the future development of the economy and social fabric of our continent and congratulated the students on being selected for this prestigious programme. She reiterated that UP was very pleased to be part of this initiative, which has the potential to realise the dream of a sustainable continent.