The Mastercard Foundation Scholars’ Program (MCFSP) at Makerere University on Thursday 12th May, 2022 held a symposium at Hotel African during which Mentors were honoured for their role on the program and briefed about the upcoming Phase Two of the same. The symposium was presided over by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs) and Chairperson MCFSP Steering Committee, Prof. Umar Kakumba. On the same occasion, Mrs. Susan Opok Tumusiime, the Executive Director, Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Uganda chapter delivered a keynote address on staying inspired during the mentoriship journey.
The Program Coordinator, Dr. Justine Namaalwa informed participants that the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Makerere University started in 2013 and has to date recruited 1,032 beneficiaries. 438 of these have so far graduated and approximately 58 are set to graduate during the 72nd Graduation Ceremony later this month.
“I extend our sincere personal gratitude to the Mastercard Foundation for the invaluable thoughts and generosity to the African child. This initiative is leading to transformative change in hundreds of African children, their parents, and we their teachers and mentors” remarked Dr. Namaalwa.
She added that over the last eight years MCFSP has upheld the pillars of; identifying the vulnerable, recruiting them into the university and providing them with valuable education.
“Beyond the education they receive, we are supposed to prepare them for the world of work, and that is where you our dear mentors have played a significant role. You are their instructors; you participate in providing their education, but are also the mentors that prepare them for their professional careers.
“We chose this day to publicly express our appreciation. I know we have always done this electronically but today, we are here to share a meal and appreciate you but above all, to create fresh momentum for networking because we haven’t seen each other in close to two years” added the Program Coordinator.
Briefing mentors on the upcoming Phase Two of the Program, Dr. Namaalwa shared that the Vice Chancellor had appointed a special seven member committee headed by Professor Emeritus Nelson Sewankambo from the College of Health Sciences (CHS) to oversee the expression of interest. The new phase is expected to commence in August 2023.
She added that the Phase Two expression of interest proposes to double the number of beneficiaries from 1,000 to 2,000. And in the spirit of inclusivity, 25% of the slots will be allocated to refugees, while 15% will be allocated to Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) and 7% to international students.
Furthermore, in the spirit of supporting scholars who have excelled and are desirous of pursuing a career in academia or research, 3% of the slots will be allocated to support graduate training. Another 30% will be allocated to beneficiaries drawn from vulnerable populations as defined by the Uganda Vulnerability Map of 2020. The 30% will also cater for minority tribes such as the Benet, Ik and Batwa, among others. The remaining 20% will be availed to any other vulnerable youth in Uganda including the urban poor.
“I am sharing this early enough to prepare you as mentors. We have been in a phase of 1,000 (scholars), a phase of no special categories, but we are walking into a different phase… I welcome you dear mentors to roll up your sleeves and together, we are going to co-create this phase” reassured Dr. Namaalwa.
Speaking on behalf of the MCF Steering Committee, Prof. Mulumba Bwanika Mathias the Dean School of Education, College of Education and External Studies (CEES) applauded the Program Coordinator, Implementation Team and Mentors for the support that enables the scholars to achieve their goals.
“In about two weeks’ time, the majority of our scholars in their final year are going to graduate and the credit goes to you the mentors. We are aware that you frequently interact with our scholars and most importantly, you maintained this during the most difficult time of the lockdown when we had the COVID-19 pandemic. We really do appreciate the kind of work you do” said Prof. Bwanika.
Touching on the upcoming Phase Two, Prof. Bwanika said, “we have submitted the proposal and highly believe that it will go through and we look forward to remaining with you our mentors because we value you. The kind of work you have done to guide these young men and women is massive, and we would like to encourage you and support you in any possible way to ensure that you continue doing this great work.”
The symposium itinerary would have been incomplete without voices from MCFSP Mentors, Scholars and Alumni. These came in from Mentors – Dr. Nina Olivia Rugambwa and Mr. Aloysius Kwitonda, Alumna – Ms. Marion Apio and Scholar – Ms. Sandra Mukoya.
Some of the lessons shared by the Mentors from their experience included;
- It takes understanding, broad knowledge and patience to mentor scholars
- Mentees need sound financial advice to help them adopt a saving culture and avoid wasting their stipends on expensive items
- Mentees are under a lot of pressure to support their families back home and in some cases are viewed as sole providers of school fees for siblings owing to the stipends they receive.
- Scholars are very knowledgeable especially about technology and should never be underestimated
- Mentors should always have a listening ear and never be quick to judge
- Mentors should relax their own boundaries to facilitate interaction and encourage mentees to open up
- Where possible, mentors should invite mentees to celebrations of personal goals achieved as a way of inspiring them
The Alumna, Ms. Marion Apio appreciated the Mastercard Foundation for sponsoring her education and giving her a platform through which she can reach out to other underprivileged girls. She heartily thanked her mentors for being patient with her endless ’emergencies’. Marion is the CEO of Girls Alive Uganda, an initiative aimed at addressing the lack of sanitary materials for girls in rural communities as well as Head of the Debunk Show, a programme aimed at fact-checking news reports under the Media Challenge Initiative.
Scholar, Ms. Mukoya a finalist of the Bachelor of Social Work and Social Administration. Programme equally expressed her appreciation to the MCFSP, wisely noting that “everyone is a product of mentorship”. She added that mentorship does not only impact the immediate beneficiary but in the long run, helps build a nation. She paid tribute to her mentor for being everything she could have ever asked for in a father.
Prior to delving into her address, the Keynote Speaker Mrs. Opok Tumusiime painted a shocking picture of the state of teenage pregnancy occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns.
“As FAWE we undertook a study and what came through is the increase in pregnancy of girls aged ten (10) to twenty-four (24) at 22.5% in the three months of March to June of 2020. And when we were looking at the ten (10) to fourteen (14) year olds, the incidence of pregnancies had increased by 366.5%. This is our country, what are we doing?” she pondered to the hushed audience.
To help prevent this grim reality from getting worse, Mrs. Opok Tumusiime urged participants to actively contribute to the “Protect the Girl, Save the Nation” campaign that was initiated by the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni. “As FAWE, we are fundraising and would like to send 2,000 girls back to school.”
Turning to the day’s theme, the Executive Director shared that mentors can become more motivated by;
- Passion: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle” Steve Jobs, former Apple CEO.
- Self discovery through helping others
- Seeking knowledge especially in areas not otherwise known and deep-diving in areas known.
- Fostering close relationship, trust and communication at all levels. Communication is not instruction but ought to be guided by cordiality.
- Being self aware and knowing how to present what needs to be presented.
- Celebrating mentees’ advances (however small) along the journey to attaining the full goal.
Mrs. Opok Tumusiime concluded by urging mentors to be the change they want to see. “You and I are responsible for this country and to make our young people better, and whose potential can be attained.”
Acknowledging the Keynote Speaker’s delivery, Prof. Umar Kakumba emphasised that “it is important for everybody to have a mentor in life, regardless of your age, regardless of what stage you are, even post-retirement, you still need a mentor.”
Sharing his own touching story, Prof. Kakumba paid tribute to the mentor who steered him back to the path of education, when the temptation to drop out of school was intense, despite the fact that his family could afford to meet all the associated costs.
“My mother passed on when I was seven…but even back then, there were many challenges that young people faced staying in school, in my case it had nothing to do with fees, money or provision… but today I am a Professor and Deputy Vice Chancellor thanks to the words of some people that touch our lives.
“One of those people, an old man said to me, ‘young man, your mother may have passed away but it was her heart’s desire that you and your siblings should go to school and get a good education’, I felt that I should share this to make all of us appreciate the role of mentorship” counseled Prof. Kakumba to rousing applause from the audience.
He therefore paid tribute to they symposium organisers for creating a platform where mentors could be honoured and further sharpened through sharing life-changing experiences on mentorship.
“I would therefore like to thank the Mastercard Foundation for the generous support, without which we would not have been here today. I extend special thanks to the Program Implementation Team for the wonderful work done in managing our young people” added Prof. Kakumba.
In the words of the day’s emcee, the Principal Public Relations Officer, Member of the MCFSP Steering Committee and Mentor, Ms. Ritah Namisango, “good mentors never tire or retire”. In appreciation of their tireless efforts, the MCFSP presented certificates to the mentors, who are drawn from the ten colleges of Makerere as well as organisations outside the University. They include; DFCU Bank, FAWE, BRAC Uganda, Refugee Law Project (RLP), Family Life Network (FLN), ACCA Uganda, Africa Careers Network (ACN), among others.
An appreciation award was also presented to the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, in recognition of his outstanding and strategic leadership that has enabled the Program Implementation Team to deliver effectively and efficiently.