MasterCard foundation in partnership with Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Uganda has launched a scholarship programme to help needy but brilliant students join higher institutions of learning.
Dubbed Higher Education Access Programme (HEAPS), the eight-year initiative estimated to cost $10m (Shs 36bn) will provide 100 bursaries annually.
According to Prof Christine Dranzoa, a board member at FAWE-Uganda, the bursaries specifically target successful S6 leavers who are unable to join universities on government or private sponsorship.
“The bursaries will cover whatever a student needs until he/she completes the course. We are looking at at least 300 beneficiaries from ages 18 to 25 years throughout the entire programme to undertake degree and diploma courses,” Dranzoa said during the launch of the programme at Imperial Royale hotel last week.
Of the 300 students, 70 per cent of the slots are reserved for female students and 30 per cent for males to pursue science programmes in areas of agriculture, medicine and education.
The minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Elioda Tumwesigye, commended MasterCard and FAWE for targeting science courses, saying it is in line with government’s policy of prioritizing science education.
“As government, we are grateful to educate our children because Uganda’s population is growing at a very fast rate and sometimes the government is overwhelmed by the increasing number of students who need assistance,” Tumwesigye said, urging students to concentrate on their studies upon enrolment.
The Heap programme beneficiaries will be selected from Adjumani, Amudat, Amuru, Kaabong, Pader, Bukwo, Buliisa, and Buyende districts. Others are Katakwi, Mayuge, Bundibugyo, Kanungu and Ntoroko.
FAWE Uganda executive director Christine Semambo Sempebwa said students from historically and structurally marginalized communities face immense barriers in enrolling for higher education.
“We selected those districts in particular because geographically, the Northern, Eastern and some parts of Western Uganda have been the most negatively affected regions, with more girls left behind in higher learning,” Sempebwa said.
She added that marginalization in the districts is occasioned by a myriad of factors including poverty, limited exposure of students to higher education, and inadequate education facilities.
“As a result, most students do not perform to the best of their abilities and, therefore, obtain lower grades than they would have had if they had been exposed to good learning environments,” she said.
Successful applicants will join education institutions like Mbarara university of Science and Technology (MUST), Gulu and Busitema Universities, Jinja School of Nursing and Midwifery, and Medical Laboratory Training School that have been selected to implement the programme.
Sempebwa encouraged students who will complete their courses to serve in their communities and improve lives of other needy people.
Meanwhile, Peter Materu, the director of education, learning and youth livelihood at MasterCard foundation, said they will also provide psycho-social support and facilitate pathways to students’ internships, industrial trainings and employment.