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We talk to four recipients of scholarships on the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program.

Since 2009, the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program has committed more than $700 million to supporting the education and leadership development of more than 30,000 young people. This year, Edinburgh became the first university in Europe to collaborate with the foundation.

It’s a partnership which demonstrates a shared aim to provide positive social and economic change for promising African students with great potential but few educational opportunities. To ensure these talented students get access to the education they deserve, the partnership will allocate $24 million to Edinburgh.

For Muhammad Musa, from Sudan, who studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Khartoum, being awarded a MasterCard Foundation scholarship has offered him the chance to broaden his horizons.

He says: “It will be my first time living outside Sudan for such a long period and it will be my first time visiting Europe and the UK, so it will be a major change in my life. It will be an amazing experience.”

“I can’t believe that I got this scholarship. I’m thrilled. I’ve been trying to get a masters degree since the day I graduated but I had no luck of securing any funds. I had to turn down many offers from different universities, but now, getting this scholarship at such a top university is like a dream come true.”

A key aim of the scholarship is to encourage the students to give back to their home communities through volunteerism and community service. Muhammad, who is embarking on an MSc in Sustainable Energy Systems at Edinburgh, is keen to embrace this ethos.

“It’s my duty to develop Sudan,” he says. “I hope to be able to apply some of this knowledge in my home country. We suffer from power cuts and have many unused resources that could be developed for clean energy.”

I had to turn down many offers from different universities, but now, getting this scholarship at such a top university is like a dream come true.

Muhammad Musa

Coming to an unfamiliar country and education system can be a daunting experience but Munini Musembi, from Nairobi in Kenya, is relishing the opportunities and experiences that she believes Edinburgh will provide.

“I have been in an all-girls school my whole life,” she explains, “so coming to the University of Edinburgh will give me my first co-education experience. I am looking forward to a more application-based education at Edinburgh.”

Munini has particular interest in robotics and will study a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Munini continues: “The knowledge and skills I will acquire will help me contribute to Kenya’s industrial economy. I hope to further my knowledge of robotics so that I can use my knowhow to develop robots that can be used in various industries in Kenya.”

As part of the scholarship programme, Munini and her fellow students will learn how to apply their skills by getting involved in extra-curricular course elements including summer schools and internships to build their abilities.

At home in Gweru, Zimbabwe, Brian Toperesu begins each morning by walking his five-year-old sister to crèche, passing locals as they make the regular journey to fetch clean water. Brian hopes that he can help improve the way of life in his neighbourhood.

“I believe that the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program at Edinburgh will help me accomplish my dream for Africa – to pass the gift of education to the next generation,” he says. “We need to establish income-generating projects from which profits will educate and empower students deprived of opportunity by poverty.”

Brian is beginning a bachelor’s degree in Electrical & Electronic Engineering with Management. He has a clear vision of how technology can play a major part in opening up opportunities for his community and wider Africa.

He says: “Technology has rapidly become the central facet of education. We need to bridge the digital rift between Africa and the world. By so doing, I believe that no African will be left out of educational and technological innovation.”

I have an opportunity to interact with the entire world assembled in one place. I am looking forward to learning how other countries are tackling and solving similar challenges that face Ghana.

Dorcas Mensah

Dorcas Mensah, from Ghana, is starting an MSc in Africa & International Development, and sees her education as the beginning of a new chapter in her life.

“This is the first time a member in my family has pursued a masters degree. For me, it means responsibility towards my community, family, my country and the world. I need to make good use of the opportunity to transform and impact lives and be a good representative of Ghana,” says Dorcas.

What’s more, she believes that Edinburgh’s international outlook can make a difference to her student experience and enhance her learning. She says: “Most importantly for me I have an opportunity to interact with the entire world assembled in one place. I am looking forward to learning how other countries are tackling and solving similar challenges that face Ghana.”

Dorcas, Muhammed, Munini and Brian join 12 fellow students on campus as part of the first cohort of the MasterCard Foundation Scholarship Program this year. Over the next seven years Edinburgh will welcome an additional 200 African scholars as part of the scheme. For many this will be truly life changing. Reflecting on her scholarship, Munini sums it up well. “This is a great opportunity that shows that where I come from doesn’t determine where I am going in life.”

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