At least 100 students, including 25 Rwandans, from 16 countries across Africa are meeting in Rwanda for a week-long academic enrichment programme dubbed the ‘Yale Young African Scholars programme’ (YYAS), which seeks to connect them to academic opportunities in the United States of America and elsewhere.
The YYAS programme has brought together outstanding high school students in the seven-day residential camp and helps prepare them for the demanding application process of attending university in the US.
“The extraordinary thing I would say about this programme is that you learn how to critically think beyond the box,” said Debi Dessalegn, a student from Ethiopia, who is part of this year’s programme.
He said such programmes are necessary for the African continent to develop a critical mass of experienced workforce to champion its development, which will eventually wean the continent off dependence on aid.
“When we go out there, we don’t want to stay there but we want to challenge the stereotype people have towards our continent,” said Raissa Ishimwe, a student from Gashora Girls Academy, Rwanda, who was selected to participate in the programme.
This high-intensity academic and leadership programme is designed for African students who have the talent, drive, energy and ideas to make meaningful impact as young leaders, even before they begin their university studies.
This year’s programme has been developed to also give an opportunity to teachers through building their capacities, part of creating a network of mentors and counselors. Currently, 30 Rwandan teachers are participating in a teacher conference on university admissions process in US universities.
According to Helinna Ayaley, the project manager, YYAS, the programme will also run in other countries including Ghana and Zimbabwe, which will also host 100 students each.
“Unlike in past years, this year will host YYAS in three African countries, with each country hosting 100 students. The idea behind this programme is to see how can we can utilise our collective knowledge and experiences and share with other students across the continent,” she said.
Ayaley also said that they have partnered with Imbuto Foundation in Rwanda and other organisations across Africa to identify potential students, especially in the countryside, who do not have access to the internet.