The MasterCard Foundation’s Scholars Program is providing funding of US$500 million to give talented students from developing countries a chance to continue their studies, especially focusing on the economically disadvantaged.
The Scholars Program was announced by Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation, at a United Nations Special Session marking the launch of Education First, an initiative led by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Special Envoy for Education Gordon Brown.
The programme gives full financial, academic, social and skills-building support for secondary and university education and also helps scholars access internships and jobs across the continent.
According to the statement, for over a decade Africa has been the second-fastest growing region in the world with over 75 percent of its population under the age of 30 and millions about to enter the workforce. The continent, however, has low secondary and higher education completion rates, meaning it lacks skills needed to be globally competitive.
Therefore the initiative seeks to ensure that children on the continent access quality, relevant, and inclusive education.
Joseph Munyambanza, a former refugee from the DRC who at 14 helped set up COBUR WAS, a non-profit organization that provides nursery and primary school for orphans, said: “The MasterCard Foundation scholarship is more than just school fees to me; it’s the fuel, it’s inspiration, it’s courage and confidence.”
“I feel that I am in the right hands because I get support and inspiration, and I have confidence that I will achieve my two big dreams for Africa; better health for my people and better education that changes lives,” he added.
“An education does more than liberate people from poverty, it is the foundation of social and economic progress,” said Roy.
He added that The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program is a network of educational institutions, non-governmental organizations, and young people working together to contribute to the emergence of a more equitable, dynamic, and prosperous Africa.
Special Envoy Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said the the MasterCard Foundation will give youth values, attitudes, and skills which they can use to contribute to the growth of their communities.
The Scholars Program alumni network includes peers from American University of Beirut – Faculty of Health Sciences, Arizona State University, Ashesi University, Duke University, EARTH University, Michigan State University, Stanford University, University of California – Berkeley, and Wellesley College and African Leadership Academy.