The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is in its second year at the University of Gondar and all signs lead to a successful start to the new academic year. The University of Gondar’s Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program has accepted a new batch of scholars, who will be Ethiopia’s next transformative leaders. And on the 10th and 11th of November 2018 the Scholars Program office organized an Induction Program that allowed the scholars to get well acquainted with what is in store for them.
For the second consecutive year the Induction Program has showcased the overview of the Scholars Program at the University of Gondar and its world renowned values. Those who took part in the two day program were among others Dr. Desalegn Mengesha, President of the University of Gondar, Dr. Solomon Mekonen, Director of the MCF office, Dr. Mikyas Abera, Program A Manager, Mr. Yifokire Teferea, Consultant of the Program, Mr. Mekonen Manaye from Addis Ababa University and Mrs. Shitaye Astawes.
Mr. Mekonen Manaye, who is from Addis Ababa University and who works with special needs individuals, gave one of the more spectacular presentations to the group of Scholars. In his presentation he blended humor with reality to get his point across.
Being a person with disability himself, Mekonen tried to express that people with disabilities are a part of society and they bring variety and sophistication to various societal issues. “You need to understand that we,” he said, “are not the people with problems because we have a disability, but we are forced to live with the misconceptions of our community which actually does have negative consequences.”
He tried to elaborate on the fact that each person who has a life altering disability is unique and has been made that way for a reason. Mrs. Shitaye Astawes also, who is a person with a disability, spoke on some concepts that resonated with the scholars.
Mrs. Shitaye who is a person with a disability (paralyzed from the waist down) may appear fragile at first glance but when one takes a closer look it is clear that she is a towering figure who has the power to change opinions. In front of the scholars and the higher officials of the university Mrs. Shitaye presented eloquently about, “life and personal lessons” and on “culture sensitive and disability conscious language”.
The Scholars Program at the University of Gondar is trying to do what no other country in Africa has done. With the idea to educate young talented people with disabilities and disadvantages for the next 9 years the University of Gondar and the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program will change the lives of not only hundreds, but millions. From the various remarks in the 2 day induction ceremony many have set their goals on changing their communities around them. These individual scholars may be small in number but they will have the opportunity and know-how to face a society and fix the many problems that are embedded in them.
Some of the numerous presentations that were presented during the 2 day Induction Program included notes about the International Scholars Community (ISC), getting familiar with the Scholarship Package, familiarizing with the student support services, campus life, Annual Report of the Scholars Program, UoG’s role and the issuing of the awards of the official Scholarship letter.
Dr. Desalegn Mengesha, the President of the University of Gondar, also had some kind words to say about the Program and its major role in Ethiopia society.
The idea which was conceived and the proposal that was fought for tirelessly for 2 years beat out numerous international organizations in Africa and globally. “We could not be more proud,” said Dr. Deslagen, “that we have won such a grant and are in the process of creating amazing transformative leaders”. He continued by saying that in the country of Ethiopia there are about 17.6 million people with disabilities and to have this opportunity to be a scholar at the University of Gondar is not just an honor but it holds great responsibility. “You all have the hopes and dreams of millions in your hand, therefore make something of yourself and take your education seriously,” he said.
The president of the University also stressed that he and his higher officials will be trying to enhance this positive progress by applying for many more grants to help and educate even more talented youth with disabilities and disadvantages when the time comes.
Lastly he spoke about the reality of the numerous accessibility issues that were faced but now which have become much more tolerable for the scholars. “When one takes a glance at construction at our university a couple of years ago it was clear that access to buildings were nonexistent” he said. But now one can notice that roads, bathrooms, dorms, classrooms and libraries have been well equipped to cater to those who have wheelchairs and other handicaps.
Currently the Scholars from Oromia, Sothern Nation and Nationalities and Tigray regions are enrolled in undergraduate and postgraduate programs. These new batches of scholars from across the country have been given a certificate of their scholarship that has been signed by the Director of the Scholars Program and the President of the University. In the near future scholars from across the Horn of Africa which include Somalia, South Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti will have this one in a lifetime opportunity. And from the expressions on the faces of the current batches and their words of excitement and fortitude their optimism will be sure to bring change.
By Samuel Malede| Scholars Program Communications Coordinator