The MasterCard Foundation announced Thursday the addition of three new partners to its innovative MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program, a 10-year global initiative which is providing $500 million to educate young people, primarily in Africa. BRAC, Campaign for Female Education (Camfed) and Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) are the first African secondary school partners to join the Program. They will administer scholarships worth US$106 million to approximately 11,000 African students so they can complete their secondary school education. The Program identifies youth who face significant financial hurdles in completing their high school education and who are therefore often overlooked. Eighty per cent of the Scholars attending the secondary school partner schools will be girls.

“Completion of secondary school is vital to helping youth find jobs, start businesses, and bring about change in their communities,” explains Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation. “Our partnerships with Camfed, FAWE, and BRAC prioritize secondary education for young girls. Data from the World Bank show that for girls, one extra year of secondary education increases their earning potential by 15-25 percent. Additionally, staying in school also delays early marriages, and over the long-term, promotes healthier and more economically secure families.”

The financial burden of secondary schooling on African families is often the most significant barrier to achieving greater enrollment. According to UNESCO, Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest rate of secondary school enrollment in the world at 43 percent and more than 21.6 million children of lower secondary school age may never spend a single day in school[i]

Rebecca Winthrop, Director of the Centre for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, confirms, “Despite steady progress over the last decade in getting more children into school, Sub-Saharan Africa still has the lowest rate of participation in secondary education and the most severe gender disparities. Investing in relevant learning for youth in secondary school is essential in order to provide them with the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed to live healthier and more productive lives. It is also a critical element for continued economic growth and social change for Africa.”

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program is not just about providing scholarships. Scholars enrolled in the Program are students who have shown leadership potential and a desire to give back to their communities. Through mentoring, leadership development, and service-learning, students gain the skills and competencies needed to become change-makers and ethical leaders and to succeed in the global economy.

“I believe that with the aid they have given me, I will become a person ready to make a change starting with my family, my relatives, my community, and Uganda at large,” says Isma Kayiza, a 19-year-old high school student at Seroma Christian High School in Kampala. “I want to attain a good future. I want to become a doctor, a person who will help somebody who is poor.”

BRAC, Camfed, and FAWE will work in partnership with families, communities, educators, and government officials to identify and demonstrate best practices for strong, high quality secondary education institutions.

SOURCE:  The MasterCard Foundation