Telling the Stories of Future Young Leaders in Africa
Here I am, the new Derrick. Africa is waiting for me." – Derrick, Uganda – BRAC
This is one of the quotes we heard from a group of dynamic, confident secondary school students, who come from economically disadvantaged communities, and who now aspire to careers such as astronomer, neurosurgeon, engineer, and the first female president of Ghana.
When I was approached by Sarah Hughes, a Mathematica senior fellow and project director for the Alumni Voices Research project, and told that there was interest in doing video interviews of the students in The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program in Rwanda and Uganda, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to become part of the team. It would be my first time visiting Africa, despite having travelled a fair amount in my previous life as a photojournalist, but I knew it would be a great opportunity to use my storytelling experience to showcase our research of The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program.
The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program provides access to secondary and higher education for young people who are committed to giving back to their communities. The MasterCard Foundation Scholars are given financial, academic, and emotional support, with the aim of building core competencies that may contribute to their success in the global economy. Mathematica is studying the Program’s implementation and impacts.
Implementation and impact studies like this usually produce a lot of findings in the form of briefs and reports, but there is more to communicating research than just charts and graphs. Hearing from The MasterCard Foundation Scholars first-hand elevates their voices and is a powerful tool in trying to understand their motivations, goals, and experiences.
The video I created features the stories of The MasterCard Foundation Scholars from Ghana, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda, as they described their hopes and dreams, and those of the alumni Scholars who had graduated from secondary school, as they talked about how they took the lessons learned in the Program and applied them to their home communities.
“I’m so happy to become a role model for children, so it’s amazing” – Bezawit, Ethiopia - FAWE
I spent the first week of the trip in Kigali, Rwanda with Sarah and Matt Sloan, director of Mathematica’s Center for International Policy Research and Evaluation, at the Program’s Secondary Scholars Convening, which brought together about 60 MasterCard Foundation Scholars from around Africa. The group spent the days learning how to become mentors and leaders and ways they can give back to their communities. I filmed, as Sarah conducted interviews with about a dozen Scholars. Sarah’s expertise in qualitative data collection was clear, as she was able to get the Scholars to describe so vividly their aspirations. The enthusiasm and energy of these students when they talked about what they have dealt with and what they hope – no, expect – to achieve was truly amazing.
In Uganda, Sarah and I met with Program alumni who had recently graduated from secondary school. They shared their insights into the Program and their perspectives on what it had been like being MasterCard Foundation Scholars, as well as how they are implementing the lessons they learned. As energized as the current Scholars were, these Program alumni were equally inspiring for what they had accomplished already in giving back to their communities.
“When I move through the community, from nowhere I will hear somebody say, ‘Teacher is passing right there,’ so I feel so confident and very happy.” – Fredrick, Uganda - BRAC
I’m gratified that Mathematica received a Gold Hermes Creative Award from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals this year for our work on the video. But it was helping share The MasterCard Foundation Scholars’ experiences that has been the biggest reward of all. To truly honor the Scholars and their accomplishments would require a feature-length film, so I hope this short video captures a little bit of their uplifting spirit.