When the partnership first formed between the Mastercard Foundation and Carnegie Mellon University Africa, it was with the aim of training the next generation of African citizens in the technological development of the continent. But in the two years since it began, it has become much more than that.
Since its inception, the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program has provided funding for 40 CMU-Africa students to pursue their dreams. In the past year alone, 35 out of 130 CMU-Africa students are attending fully funded through the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program. This year, the number of students in the program is expected to grow to 45—not just from Rwanda, but from all over the continent of Africa.
“Prior to the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program, we had mostly students from Rwanda,” says Vijayakumar Bhagavatula, director of CMU-Africa. “But we didn’t have as much funding to support students from other parts of Africa. Now, in addition to supporting Rwandan students, Mastercard Foundation has enabled us to have students from 15 African countries. Not only have we become pan-African, but our Rwandan students are now exposed to a more diverse environment.”
As one student put it: “I had to come to CMU-Africa to learn about Africa.”
The Mastercard Foundation scholarships not only sponsor a good portion of the CMU-Africa master’s students, but the Foundation’s financial support has enabled the location to hire more staff members as part of the Scholars’ Program. The additional programming this funding has created for the Scholars, such as leadership training, are also made available to everyone at CMU-Africa.
Through the program, CMU-Africa students have the opportunity to meet students from other universities in the area who are also supported financially by the Mastercard Foundation, through regular gatherings of scholarship recipients. And according to Bhagavatula, this pan-African experience, both in Kigali and beyond, is one of the unique benefits that CMU-Africa provides for the local academic community.
“Now, when you come to CMU-Africa,” says Bhagavatula, “in the small group of 130 students, you have people from Ghana, from Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, even Lesotho. All of these countries that many students wouldn’t normally know anything about, because when they’re in their own country or their own local college, they’re mostly surrounded by the local population.”
Thanks in large part to the Mastercard Foundation, CMU-Africa is well equipped to prepare students to contribute to the entire continent of Africa.