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How Education Reforms Can Transform Learning and Leadership

After generations of outdated, rote curricula, new revisions and reforms to African education are transforming learning opportunities for the continent’s youth. Yet learners rarely gain exposure to the 21st century skills that help them secure employment and spur innovation, creating entrepreneurship opportunity for themselves and others along the way.

One way in which curricula can be developed to meet the needs of Africa’s young workforce is the inclusion of internships, developing connections to mentors and career guidance personnel, and provide avenues for innovation within teams, more opportunities for field work, capacity building and mindset change.

But there is reason to be optimistic. In partnership with 27 organizations, the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is ushering in a new style of exposure to learners. In Uganda, the Mastercard Foundation has partnered with BRAC Uganda to provide holistic support to the learners so that they can better understand themselves as young leaders with the potential to transform their communities.

Transformative Leadership and Giving Back

Never should one always be on the receiving end. One should also give. As Scholars, during secondary school holidays, we were introduced to community service workshops where the spirit of giving back and teamwork for social transformation was instilled in us. These workshops taught us that there is something we can all contribute to the betterment of humanity. That our basic and universal human quest is to find meaning in our lives.

To nurture this sense of commitment to others, BRAC Uganda has organized career guidance seminars. In one of the seminars, I recall one of the career guidance specialists telling us to ask ourselves these questions: Who am I? What is my purpose? What is my giftedness and what can I do with it? What am I capable of becoming and how can I actualise it? What do I want to spend my life doing? What career will help me realise my personal mission? How can I prepare myself for that career? What legacy do I want to leave behind? What value do I want to leave behind me? What path can I take?

These questions have helped many others like me to shape our lives because we were given an opportunity to understand ourselves better and what we can do with what we already have in terms of gifts and talents. It’s always important for each one of us to understand what we are good at.

The game of life is about making ends meet, pursuing a fulfilling career, achieving personal mission and purpose. That is what gives meaning to one’s life so that at the end of it all one can confidently say: this was a life worth living. I made a difference.  Indeed, I was born into this world for a noble purpose.  I won a victory for humanity. What a successful person I am.

BRAC Uganda also organises a leadership congress where Scholars connect with leaders in many different sectors, including entrepreneurs, motivational speakers, artists, health and education gurus. These people tell us real stories of how they’ve been able to build a successful life.

Building a Network of Change-makers

After graduating from high school, Scholars are inducted to an alumni network, which is a growing family of young brilliant minds ready to innovate. Their innovations are then pivoted to community development. We network with people from the Ministry of Education and the Mastercard Foundation who guide us on career choices. During this time, the Foundation introduces us to online platforms like Baobab, a closed social media platform where Scholars build community, connect with mentors, as well share views for social transformation and engaged internship opportunities.

These opportunities are amazing.

After our graduation from secondary school, BRAC Uganda alumni are placed in different organizations for internships to prepare them and develop their professionalism and work ethic before transitioning to university. I interned with Reproductive Health Uganda, where I was introduced to a working environment, networked and built my roster of contacts, completed a community-based reproductive health course, and worked on community assessments and outreaches.  This has given me an upper hand in my early career.

Innovation in Education

Despite these positive steps, more transformation of the educational sector is required. Governments, universities, and organizations which aim to support the education and professional development of students across Africa should think of how they can promote and kick-start the innovations of young people to help in job creation and community transformation.

It’s also paramount that education of citizens should also include entrepreneurship training so that youth can become drivers of job creation.  Teachers being at the front line of the education system should be equipped with the relevant skills demanded by the 21st century.

Youth who have graduated from Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program institutions are taking the lead to create powerful change in their communities, collaborating to shape ideas and later bring them to life. Innovations in our education has made us change-makers. By learning from our successes, we hope that other communities will have an opportunity to grow their skills and become the change-makers the entire continent deserves.

Kyomuhendo Bruhan is an alumni of the Scholars Program at BRAC Uganda.