STEM schoolgirls urged to become agents of change

Dr Christine Gasingirwa, the Director of Science and Technology at the Ministry of Education (2nd left, front row), FAWE and MasterCard officials pose with the scholars. Marie Anne Dushimimana.

Vestine Mukangamije lost her husband 10 years ago when her daughter, Clémentine Masengesho, was in primary two. Her hope for a bright future immediately faded as she didn’t have a job, property or other source of income to raise her child.

She resorted to odd jobs to raise money to feed her family.

Putting my child in school was a problem, she tells The New Times.

“I could earn Rwf1,000 a day, but it wasn’t enough to provide us meals, clothes, shelter and school fees for my daughter,” she recalls.

Her daughter was bright at school but the mother was afraid she would not be able to support her education.

“I used to wish she could repeat a class so that I get more time to look for money for tuition, but she was brilliant and could not repeat,” she said. “Every time she came back home with end-of-academic-year results, I asked her if she passed and she would happily and innocently tell me that she had passed with flying colours. Little did she know that it only increased my worry.”

Mukangamije was forced to go to school to talk to the administration all the time imploring them not to send her daughter away and promising to clear pending arrears.

After seeing the committment of this mother to see her daughter pursue her education, the school administration helped the child get a scholarship from World Vision.

But it was a short-term scholarship, it stopped when Masengesho was only in Senior Two.

“I shared my concern with the school administration. As a sign of my commitment, I would send little money whenever I could and they always told me that a brilliant student would not drop out just because of school fees,” she said.

As expected, Masengesho got good grades in her O-Level national examinations, which subsequently earned her a scholarship from MasterCard Foundation Scholars Programme.

The Canada-based foundation extends scholarships to academically brilliant, but economically disadvantaged schoolgirls in Rwanda.

The beneficiaries have to be undertaking STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.

On Saturday, Masengesho and 486 other schoolgirls completed a boot camp designed to empower them before they join university. They are the second cohort of high school graduates under the programme.

These girls are chosen based on their economic vulnerability, performance in school and their commitment to innovations and giving back to society, Hendrina Doroba, a representative of FAWE Africa  – a continental body that empowers women. Its local chapter, FAWE Rwanda, partners with MasterCard Foundation in its scholars programme in the country.

“When we were conceiving this project, we didn’t envision the kind of remarkable impact it is having today,” she said. “It’s amazing to see how it’s impacting lives and shaping the future of these great girls. And this is just the beginning.”

The scholarship caters for all the necessary school requirements, including school fees, scholastic materials, mentorship services, as well as life skills designed to empower and nurture the beneficiaries into responsible citizens that would ultimately give back to the community.

However, Doroba said there are still many disadvantaged girls out there that need similar support, adding that FAWE continues to work with stakeholders, including the Government, to address the issue.

Kim Kerr, the Director for Regional Programmes at MasterCard Foundation, advised the beneficiary scholars to be purposeful in life so as to eventually achieve their dreams and impact their communities.

“Dreams are personal and selfish. You must have a purpose to touch the lives of many. You must collaborate because working together is always better than working alone,” she advised them.

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program provides education and leadership development for 35,000 bright and young leaders across Africa.

In Rwanda, it seeks to sponsor some 1200 schoolgirls over 10 years.

Dr Christine Gasingirwa, the Director of Science and Technology at the Ministry of Education, expressed gratitude to MasterCard Foundation and FAWE for shaping young girls into confident and competent young leaders.

She told the schoolgirls to prove that women can study any subject and do any kind of job, including those that for been a preserve for men for a long time.

“I have a dream to become president one day,” Faraha Gafaranga, 19, one of the girls, said. “Or to at least serve my country in any other senior leadership position.”

She will soon head to Ghana for her bachelor’s degree studies, thanks to the scholarship programme.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

ADVERTISEMENT