Education in Support of Social Transformation

Learning from the First Five Years of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program

Learning from the First Five Years of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program is the largest private scholarship program ever implemented for African youth. The Program is unique in supporting education at the secondary, tertiary and graduate levels, providing both financial support and a range of services and training such as mentoring, internships and leadership development. Through a network of university and NGO partners, the Program ensures that academically talented students from disadvantaged or marginalized communities are able to attend quality educational institutions, and can develop the knowledge and skills they need to join the next generation of ethical leaders. The vision of The MasterCard Foundation is that these young people will make a lasting impact in their communities and regions, ushering in a new era of equitable and inclusive prosperity.

The Scholars Program was launched in 2012 with 12 implementing partners and an intent to support the education and leadership development of 15,000 young people. Since its launch, the Program has grown to encompass a partner network of 28 universities and education NGOs and has committed to support 35,000 talented students.

The report, “Education in Support of Social Transformation,” examines and describes early outcomes and learning from the first five years of the Scholars Program, drawing on the experiences of Scholars, partners and Foundation staff.

Objectives examined in the report:

  • Is the Scholars Program providing quality education to talented, marginalized youth?
  • Is the Scholars Program fostering the skills and mindsets of Scholars as transformative leaders?
  • Are Scholars returning to their home countries and regions?
  • Are Scholars giving back and contributing to economies and societies on the continent?
  • Are Scholars satisfied with the Scholars Program?
  • Is the Scholars Program a catalyst for broader change within implementing institutions?

The Scholars Program is still in its early years and certainly too soon for definitive conclusions regarding the Program’s ultimate impact. During the first years, focus has been on building the underpinning of the Program: creating appropriate criteria and processes for recruitment and selection of Scholars and partners; strengthening the partner network; and establishing support services for Scholars. Nevertheless, there are examples of early impact and transformation at both the individual and the institutional level.

Impacts of the Program:

  • The Foundation and its partners are successfully recruiting youth who meet the Scholars Program’s criteria;
  • Elite universities are adopting new recruitment and selection approaches, and expanding the number of disadvantaged students they recruit from Africa;
  • Scholars are performing well academically;
  • Satisfaction with the Scholars Program is very high;
  • A majority of tertiary Scholars studying abroad have, or intend to, return to Africa;
  • About half of the university graduates are employed; 81 percent found employment within two months or less. The remaining half of the university graduates have moved on to continue their education;
  • 85 percent of secondary school Scholars were able to transition to higher education after the Program, most commonly in STEM fields, and at equal rates among men and women;
  • Both secondary and tertiary Scholars are highly motivated to give back to their communities; a large majority of Scholar alumni regularly volunteer; and
  • Some Scholar alumni are already making a difference to their countries of origin through social ventures.

The Foundation is continuing to invest in research and evaluation of the Scholars Program in order to learn from and improve the Scholars Program and track its impact. Of particular interest in the short-term are pathways, successes and challenges of Scholars making academic and professional transitions. Programming efforts will continue to expand in the area of transformative leadership; development of a connected and networked Scholars Community; and the critical preparation of Scholars for successful transition and contribution to the continent’s tremendous potential.

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