In Uganda, Education Opportunities for Youth Grow With BRAC and The MasterCard Foundation

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Partners enter second year of secondary scholars initiative, part of The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program, a $500 million global effort to expand access to education.

BRAC, a global development organization founded in Bangladesh in 1972, has begun recruiting the second annual batch of academically talented but economically disadvantaged Ugandan secondary school students for The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program, an innovative 10-year global initiative providing $500 million to educate young people, primarily in Africa.

Demand is high for quality education for the poor in Uganda, which is the world’s youngest country, with a median age of 14. BRAC Uganda expects to receive between 40,000 and 70,000 applications for 1,800 available spaces. Following last year’s recruitment, this will bring the total number of students in The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program at BRAC to 2,400.

Earlier this month, The MasterCard Foundation announced the addition of new partners to The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program. BRAC, Campaign for Female Education (Camfed) and Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) are the first African secondary school partners to join the Program. They will administer scholarships worth $106 million to approximately 11,000 African students so they can complete their secondary school education. The Program identifies youth who face significant financial hurdles in completing their high school education and who are therefore often overlooked. Eighty percent of the Scholars attending the secondary school partner schools will be girls.

"Completion of secondary school is vital to helping youth find jobs, start businesses, and bring about change in their communities," said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation, in the announcement earlier this month. "Our partnerships with Camfed, FAWE, and BRAC prioritize secondary education for young girls. Data from the World Bank show that for girls, one extra year of secondary education increases their earning potential by 15-25 percent. Additionally, staying in school also delays early marriages, and over the long-term, promotes healthier and more economically secure families."

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program at BRAC was officially launched in Uganda May 2013, though BRAC Uganda had already begun receiving applications for the first year of students in November 2012. After reviewing 14,000 applicants through multiple stages of screening, 613 Scholars from 49 districts received support in the first quarter of 2013. The Program is supported by a total investment of approximately $46.7 million over eight years from The MasterCard Foundation.

BRAC Uganda opened its doors in 2006 and has become the country’s largest development organization, with 180 offices and more than 2,300 employees, in large part due to the continued partnership with The MasterCard Foundation. BRAC has established working relationships with the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports, among others, and with schools, teachers, and communities to create a strong network of collaboration.

The financial burden of secondary schooling on African families is often the most significant barrier to achieving greater enrollment. According to UNESCO, Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest rate of secondary school enrollment in the world at 43 percent and more than 21.6 million children of lower secondary school age may never spend a single day in school.

"I believe that with the aid they have given me, I will become a person ready to make a change starting with my family, my relatives, my community, and Uganda at large," says Isma Kayiza, a 19-year-old high school student at Seroma Christian High School in Kampala. "I want to attain a good future. I want to become a doctor, a person who will help somebody who is poor."

BRAC, Camfed, and FAWE will work in partnership with families, communities, educators, and government officials to identify and demonstrate best practices for strong, high quality secondary education institutions.

Proving a wide range of services to the poor, BRAC is the largest nongovernmental secular education provider in the world, with almost 1.2 million students currently enrolled in its primary and pre-primary schools. It also runs Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents, a program that offers hundreds of thousands of adolescent girls the opportunity for a better life through mentorship, life skills training and microfinance. BRAC University, started in 2001 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, currently has 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled, including students from 21 countries.

BRAC is a development success story, spreading solutions born in Bangladesh to 10 other countries around the world – a global leader in creating opportunity for the world’s poor. What started out as a limited relief operation in 1972 in a remote village of Bangladesh has turned into the largest development organisation in the world. Organising the poor using communities’ own human and material resources, BRAC (formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) catalyses lasting change, creating an ecosystem in which the poor have the chance to seize control of their own lives. We do this with a holistic development approach geared toward inclusion, using tools like microfinance, education, healthcare, legal services, community empowerment, social enterprises and BRAC University. Our work now touches the lives of an estimated 135 million people, with staff and BRAC-trained entrepreneurs numbering in the hundreds of thousands, a global movement bringing change to 11 countries in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. BRAC USA is a US affiliate created in 2006 to advance and support BRAC's global mission. For more information, please visit

The MasterCard Foundation is an independent, global organization based in Toronto, Canada, with more than $7 billion in assets. Through collaboration with partner organizations in 46 countries, it is creating opportunities for all people to learn and prosper. The Foundation's programs promote financial inclusion and advance youth learning, mostly in Africa. Established in 2006 through the generosity of MasterCard Worldwide when it became a public company, the Foundation is a separate and independent entity. The policies, operations, and funding decisions of the Foundation are determined by its own Board of Directors and President and CEO. To learn more about The MasterCard Foundation, please visit Scholar profiles, video, and infographic can be accessed at

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Scott MacMillan
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