Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria (UP), urged 63 students, who are the 2019 recipients of the prestigious Mastercard Foundation Scholarship, to give back to the community once they have completed their studies.
He was speaking at the launch of the 2019 Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program, which was attended by members of his executive, scholarship recipients and alumni.
UP has entered into a 10-year partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, offering scholarships to academically talented but financially disadvantaged youth from across Africa to study at the University from 2014 to 2023. “The scholarship was founded on the premise that all young people, no matter their diverse backgrounds, should have the opportunity to obtain a quality education and pursue their aspirations. The goal of the scholarship is to develop a cohort of transformational leaders who will support social transformation and economic growth on the African continent,” explained Prof Kupe.
The recipients of this scholarship are some of the most academically gifted young people in Africa. They are provided with financial, social and academic support and given the opportunity to develop into future leaders in their communities. Applicants must have demonstrated qualities of leadership or the potential to be leaders. This is an integral part of the ethos of the programme as young leaders are instrumental in effecting positive change in Africa.
Scholarships were awarded to applicants accepted for study in the following four faculties:
Economics and Management Sciences; Natural and Agricultural Sciences; Humanities (Political Science and International Relations) and Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology.
The total value of the scholarships over the programme’s 10-year duration exceeds US$21 million (R295 million). Students in the 2019 programme come from 13 African countries, including Lesotho, Swaziland, Uganda and South Africa, while 23 of them are undergraduates and 40 postgraduates.
Prof Kupe added that UP “is fortunate and very proud to be one of only two South African universities selected by the Mastercard Foundation to partner with them in this unique undertaking in the company of some of the best universities in the world, among others, Stanford and Arizona State in the USA, and Toronto and British Columbia in Canada.”
He told students that as recipients of these scholarships, they must “probe what it means to lead with significance, whether this leadership is of self as a university student, or leading to create an impact after graduating; relevant leadership (ethical, moral and transformational) is what is required in life”.
He said there were two expectations of Mastercard Scholarship students at UP: academic success and giving back to their local community. “As we know with every opportunity comes responsibility.”
Prof Norman Duncan and Prof Tawana Kupe with the 2019 cohort of students, alumni and programme staff
Prof Norman Duncan, UP Vice-Principal: Academic, related the story to students of the inspirational Dr Mae Jemison, a scientist and medical doctor, who overcame obstacles as a student to become the first African American woman to travel into space. Dr Jemison was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for its astronaut programme in 1987. She subsequently served as co-investigator on a bone cell research experiment conducted on an eight-day mission into space in 1992.
In 1993, she established the Jemison Group Inc, a technology consulting firm that integrates socio- cultural issues into the design and development of engineering and science projects. In 1994, she established an international science camp for children aged 12 to 16, called the Earth we share. This camp aims to promote science literacy among young people and enhances teacher skills in experiential education. She is also involved in an initiative funded by the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA to develop the capability for interstellar human space travel by 2112. Prof Duncan said: “In relation to this initiative, Jemison states, ‘We have an opportunity to create the future and decide what that’s like.’”
He told students, in line with this: “You will have to decide what your future is going to look like and work towards that future becoming a reality.” He added that they would face challenges during their studies. “When we (UP) endeavour to ensure your success, it is not only for the sake of enabling you to obtain the formal qualifications for which you have enrolled, but importantly to also ensure that you have the skills and knowledge that will enable you to contribute to a prosperous and better society.”
Some of the students who are on the programme
For Blessing Dlamini, a Political Science and International Relations undergraduate from Swaziland, the scholarship “comes with lots of empowerment and leadership training. It is an excellent programme that offers lots of support.” He wants to pursue a career in international relations.
Blessing Dlamini and Lennox Wasara
Lennox Wasara of Zimbabwe, who will be graduating this year with a master’s in Enterpreneurship, said the scholarship afforded him opportunities to network with fellow students. He saw Africa “through stories I heard from students on the programme”. He is starting a business in partnership with a friend in the fitness industry, offering an app enabling people to access any gym that partners with them without a contract, while they pay only minute-based rates. In Zimbabwe, he will be involved in a golf development initiative and in business skills training for people in the informal sector.
Staff working with students on the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program: Sifiso Khuboni, Dimakatso Mashigo, Dr Efe Isike, Dr Ololade Shyllon (Programme Manager), Sisanda Bam, Dr Grace Ramafi and Eloise Law-van Wyk