The MasterCard Foundation has provided scholarships so that some 200 African students can study at the University of Edinburgh. The first twelve scholars have arrived for the 2016-2017 University session - we spoke to three of them about their passions and interests.
By Michal Shimonovich
What is the MasterCard Foundation?
The massive sum of the scholarship - $27 million – will provide 80 undergraduates and 120 postgraduates in African studies with full scholarships. In addition, 60 scholars based at home will utilise the impressive academics offered through University of Edinburgh courses by participating in online distance learning Master’s programmes. In removing the financial barriers that might have otherwise prevented these scholars from studying abroad, particularly at a prestigious university, this scholarship will ensure the community at the University is richer, the culture and knowledge exchange that occurs on campus more dynamic. The partnership the University of Edinburgh has with the MasterCard Foundation is the first of its kind in Europe.
The University of Edinburgh and Africa
The University of Edinburgh has strong ties to Africa. We are connected to African culture, language and development thanks to our impressive students – both those visiting from Africa and those who have gone to Africa for additional courses and field work. Famous alumni include Julius Nyerere, leader of independence in Tanzania, and Justice Julia Sebutinde, a Judge of the High Court of Uganda. The wide range of taught Masters available to students through the Centre of African Studies includes an MSc in African Studies and an MSc Africa & International Development. Research is also done by students completing their PhD in African Studies.
The African Studies programme at Edinburgh is currently in the top five of best Middle Eastern & African Studies programmes according to the independent UK University League Tables & Rankings. In addition, Swahili summer school has been running for the past few years, sending students to study Swahili in Tanzania and learn more about East African culture. The society, Edinburgh Swahili Club, offers free beginner classes every week.
What Kushmandi was most looking forward to before coming to Edinburgh: “To know more about different cultures, religions and traditions.”
Kushmandi Sreekison from Mauritius, Undergraduate, 2016-2020, International Business
It is initiatives such as these that have made the University so appealing to MCF scholars. This year’s students are also looking forward to engaging with the dynamic community at Edinburgh. Kushmandi, from Mauritius, told us that before she came to Edinburgh, one of the things she was most looking forward to was “to know more about different cultures, religions and traditions.”
It is also important for the students visiting to dispel presumptions some students might have about them; student Vanessa Ombura was concerned of “being perceived as a country and/or continent, and not an individual.” Breaking these pre-conceived notions we may have about one another’s country of origin or culture requires providing students opportunities to engage with other people who aren’t necessarily of the same background. Kushmandi recognised that it can be “a bit challenging to have a diverse circle of friends.” She hopes to “move out of [her] comfort zone” by joining extracurricular activities.