Queen’s receives $24.2 million to jumpstart Scholars Program in Ethiopia

MasterCard Foundation initiative to work with 27 universities

The University of Gondar in Ethiopia.
Photo supplied via Wikipedia

Backed by a $24.2 million (USD) grant from The MasterCard Foundation, a 10-year “Scholar’s Program” partnership between the University of Gondar and Queen’s has been launched. 

In the days following the Jan. 16 announcement, Anna Miller, the Education and Learning Program Manager for The MasterCard Foundation spoke with The Journal

“With Queen’s University and the University of Gondar, we saw a major shared desire and commitment to making university education far more accessible for young people with disabilities on the African continent,” Miller said. 

The MasterCard Foundation maintains a network of 27 universities that supports accessibility in education, specifically for students with disabilities across the African continent. 

“Through the Scholar’s Program, these young Africans will be equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to become the next generation of ethical leaders,” Miller said. 

The project was pitched to the foundation by Queen’s 20 months ago, and following extensive contact with the U of G, it was approved last September by The MasterCard Foundation board. 

The grant is projected to provide 450 students at U of G with the education to empower themselves as the leaders of their generation. Fields of study will include health sciences, law, education, nursing and rehabilitation science. 

Queen’s role in the partnership will include training 60 U of G faculty members at Queen’s, participating in research projects and facilitating the creation of a Community-Based Rehabilitation certificate and Occupational Therapy curriculum at the U of G.  

“A number of our Occupational Therapy faculty members have created new OT programs in different countries around the world — in Russia or Iran for example — and will have a wealth of knowledge to contribute to our work starting up the OT program in Ethiopia,” said Heather Aldersey, Director of The International Centre for the Advancement of Community Based Rehabilitation (ICACBR) at Queen’s. 

ICACBR has worked to promote inclusion in education, among other sectors, for 25 years. “Accessibility benefits all students and all universities, and investing in the efforts of two leading institutions who had this as their core shared mission was simply the right thing to do,” Aldersey said. 

According to Miller, a majority of the funds will be allocated toward individual scholarships which include providing students with tuition fees, leadership and mentoring programs, tutoring and counselling. 

“One key challenge that I have at the forefront of my mind is ensuring that individuals who graduate from the U of G OT program find meaningful employment,” Aldersey said. 

“In a country where a profession doesn’t exist, it will take a lot of education and awareness campaigns to help people understand what the profession does, why it is important, and how it can be integrated into existing systems.”

Beginning this fall, four U of G faculty members will arrive at Queen’s. Funds will be allocated to cover living and tuition expenses. The Scholar’s Program will also engage in a practice-based research project to generate evidence concerning successful methods of inclusive education.

“I hope that we will demonstrate that Queen’s University is inclusive, collaborative, and committed to excellence in education and service,” Aldersey said. “We will demonstrate to the scholarly community and beyond our great capacity for innovative and meaningful research.”

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