A number of youths from economically disadvantaged communities in sub-Saharan Africa will have their life prospects improve, thanks to a MasterCard Foundation scholarship that will fund their education at the University of Toronto.
A US$22.5-million donation from the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program will enable 67 African high school grads to complete an engineering or arts and science undergraduate degree at U of T. The program is designed to help participants achieve their full potential and enhance economic and social circumstances in their home communities. “Our applicants already have a record of demonstrated academic abilities and talents. At U of T, they will be developing the skills and focus that, when they go back, allow them to emerge as leaders,” says Jill Matus, U of T’s vice-provost of students.
U of T is one of several educational institutions and non-profit organizations worldwide participating in MasterCard’s $500-million, 10-year program that launched last September. The initiative is focused on educating youths to strengthen the workforce of sub-Saharan Africa, which has the lowest education rates in the world: according to a 2010 UNESCO study, only seven per cent of youths enrol in post secondary school.
At U of T, the students will arrive in cohorts over the next five years starting this fall. They will receive full coverage for tuition and accommodation at Woodsworth College or New College for four years. Both colleges, along with the Faculty of Arts and Science and the Centre for International Experience, will provide mentorships, career counselling and life-skills coaching. They will also hold events to help the students adapt to the social and cultural aspects of life on campus and in Toronto. Woodsworth offers assistance in math, writing and learning strategies. At New College, students will be able to take courses in African studies and participate in an African studies writing group. “With globally focused academic programs, we have a number of faculty members who can mentor the young scholars,” says Yves Roberge, principal of New College. “Our International Foundation Program also offers unique expertise in transitioning international students to U of T and preparing them for success in their chosen programs of study.”
“The students will get to learn at a globally recognized institution, have opportunities to learn from their peers and gain exposure to our fantastic multicultural society,” says Joe Desloges, principal of Woodsworth College.
Students will also participate in two three-month internships – one in Toronto and one in Africa – to gain skills in areas that could make a difference in their community of origin, such as microfinance, food security or public health. After graduation, they will have access to a network of alumni, both from U of T and the scholarship program.
“It’s a terrific opportunity for us to learn from each other and to enhance our understanding of life in Africa,” says Desloges. “It will enrich student life and the academic experience.”