BERKELEY, CA – An unprecedented $500,000,000 Scholars Program launched in 2012 by The MasterCard Foundation, will bring promising students from Africa to UC Berkeley as part of a global network of institutions aligned with the Foundation’s vision of economic and social transformation through increased educational access. The Foundation’s President and CEO, Reeta Roy, will be on campus April 18th, 2013 at the International House Gala to accept its premier “Global Foundation for Peace Award”, a recognition that celebrates the scope and reach of this historic program. It includes $30M in scholarships and support services to nurture more than one hundred promising and deserving African students attending UC Berkeley.
According to the United Nations, Africa is the second-fastest growing region in the world, yet 70 percent of the continent’s population of close to 1 billion is under age 30, the vast majority of whom lack access to educational opportunity: only 40 % of young people attend high school in Africa, and just 6 percent go to college.
“An education does more than liberate people from poverty, it is the foundation of social and economic progress,” says Ms. Roy. “Our Scholars are bright, motivated young people who have demonstrated their leadership potential and their desire to improving their communities. UC Berkeley brings valuable expertise to The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program through their strength in developing global citizens, and their ability to offer Scholars an extraordinary learning experience.”
UC Berkeley will welcome 113 MasterCard Foundation Scholars between 2012 – 2020. The Center for African Studies coordinates Cal’s participation in the program in partnership with the Vice Chancellor, Division of Student Affairs and Berkeley’s International Office, among other units on campus, providing financial, social and academic support to scholar participants. More than a third of the 113 Scholars during their time on campus will benefit from and contribute to the residential community of International House (“I-House”), a unique educational and residential center serving nearly 600 students and scholars from 70+countries which since 1930 has been dedicated to promoting intercultural respect, understanding and peace. Martha Saavedra, Center for African Studies Director, herself an alumna of International House, says “It’s wonderful that our campus community can gather together to recognize Ms. Roy and the incredible contribution The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program is making to both UC Berkeley and, most importantly, to the future of Africa.”
One of the new graduate students at Cal and I-House is Aisha Kigongo who, unlike the majority of teens in Uganda, attended high school, as did her 12 siblings. “Our parents strongly valued education, and my father would always say, ‘Whatever little money I have, I’ll give to you if it’s relative to your education. If it’s not, it’s a luxury.” After getting her undergraduate degree at Grambling State University in Louisiana, Aisha worked for several years as a software engineer and set her sights on UC Berkeley for a master’s degree from the School of Information, with its interdisciplinary program that spans technology, humanities, sociology and cognitive science. “For me, the program had the right balance to help me apply my technical skills for the betterment of society. Both UC Berkeley and I-House give me the ability to work well with people across many cultures, and this will also help me help my country.” Aisha hopes to use her degree to empower African women, especially in rural areas, through technology, with the goal of enhancing their economic opportunities.
Graduate students Maanaa Pierre of Ghana and Narissa Allibhai of Nairobi, Kenya are both enrolled in UC Berkeley’s Master’s of Development Practice program at the College of Natural Resources. Narissa says its “courses are not just about theory, but give me tools to really impact people.” Years of riding to school from her middle-class neighborhood in Nairobi through large slums where she saw youngsters her age begging and playing in sewage fueled her resolve to make life better for the region. “I’ve had these opportunities,” she said, “and there are so many others who have not. Giving back is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life.” She said she hopes after graduation to contribute to sustainable development and to creating equal opportunities in impoverished Kenyan communities.
Involvement in the Scholars Program positions UC Berkeley as a leader in Africa’s future, reports UC Berkeley’s Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who Chairs the International House Board and will host the April 18th Gala. Martha Saavedra states, “In the past 10 years UC Berkeley has become increasingly engaged in academic research, institutional and technical exchanges, and student experiential learning in Africa and with African partners. A significant increase in the number of Sub-Saharan African students on campus will critically sharpen these engagements and open new opportunities for collaboration and innovation.”
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The MasterCard Foundation President and CEO, Reeta Roy, says: This Scholars Program enables students to fully achieve their potential so that they can make a difference in their own communities.
The three graduate UC Berkeley MasterCard Foundation Scholars pictured above are part of the current I-House resident community.
Video of two UC Berkeley MasterCard Foundation Scholars