Mastercard Foundation scholarship pave way for more refugees in Ghana to have access to higher education

“This is the best thing that ever happened to me. I can’t describe how happy and grateful I am for this opportunity” Grace Divine Konan

Grace is a 22 year old refugee who has gained admission to study Social work and Sociology at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, made possible through a scholarship by the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program.

Grace has lived in Ampain Camp since 2011 after she and her family fled Ivory Coast because of post electoral violence in that country. It has been difficult trying to pursue higher education after Senior High School because UNHCR’s support for tertiary education is inadequate. Grace has been spending her time in the camp working as a volunteer for ADRA Ghana, UNHCR’s Partner in charge of Livelihoods support in the camps.

According to her, this opportunity has a good potential to open great doors for her in the future and she is ready to put in her best to achieve her dreams. “There are many people in the camp who are looking up to me and I cannot afford to fail them. I am going to challenge myself to do better so I turn out well” she said. Grace says life on campus is demanding but fun. She is enjoying the opportunity to network with so many people from different backgrounds. She aspires to work for UNHCR in future to be able to support other people forced to flee their homes.

Koudou Eric Mardochee, 37-year-old, has been living in Ampain Camp for about 10 years now. Prior to fleeing Cote dÍvoire in 2011 to Ghana, he had already completed secondary school awaiting to enter the tertiary school. Upon arrival in Ghana, he took advantage of UNHCR’s skills training programmes where he learnt how to sew and has since been working as a tailor in the camp. Through the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program support, he is now studying Fashion Designing at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

“It has been my prayer all these years that an opportunity like this will come my way to pursue further learning and improve myself. I feel extremely happy to have this scholarship” Eric Mardochee.

For Eric, he has plans of opening a fashion designing school in the near future to be able to support others realize their potential.
He was grateful to the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program, UNHCR and the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) for the combined effort to help him achieve his dreams.

Eric and Grace are two out of five refugees who go scholarship from the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program this year to pursue various courses at the university.


Some refugee students at KNUST who are beneficiaries of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program

Inadequate opportunities for refugee students at the tertiary level has been the bane of many a refugee. The German scholarship programme DAFI, for many years has been the sole source of sponsorship for refugees desiring to pursue higher education and has been very helpful over the years in supporting refugee tertiary education. However, the scholarship slots are always over-subscribed and not all qualified refugees get the opportunity to be enrolled. In 2019 for instance, DAFI was able to offer 25 scholarship slots out of 56 qualified refugees who had applied.

It is for this reason that a new partnership with the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program in Ghana to support persons who have been forced to flee is welcome news. This partnership which was secured in 2019 is to offer scholarships to persons with displaced backgrounds where about 370 refugee students are expected to benefit within a 10-year phase. This is the first time Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is offering scholarships to refugees in Ghana.

Ms. Catherine Lawluvy, a Project Manager at the CCG said the support from the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is going to help more qualified refugees to have access to tertiary education. “For instance, in 2020, DAFI scholarship was not available due to funding constraints. This would have meant no scholarship opportunity for qualified refugees in Ghana to access tertiary education for that academic year. But the Mastercard Foundation intervention came in timely” she noted adding that the Mastercard Foundation opportunity will go a long way in ensuring that refugees due for tertiary education are not limited by lack of funding opportunities.

According to Ms. Lawluvy, tertiary education for refugees is a means towards durable solutions for them. For those who choose to locally integrate, it facilitates the opportunity for them to have decent jobs. Even for those who opt for voluntary repatriation, tertiary education plays a huge role because with the certificates, when they return home, they can find jobs she indicated.

Ms. Lawluvy said the CCG is very happy with the programme which is expected to give more refugees opportunity to access tertiary education. “For us, it also means more work. Though the opportunity exists, it is not going to be on silver platter. We have to work to ensure the refugees qualify for the scholarship and are able to successfully sail through the rigorous selection process” she added.

UNHCR Country Representative, Ms. Esther Kiragu lauded the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program for the partnership adding that it will make a difference for refugee youth in Ghana as education is key to a better life.

Currently, only 3% of refugees have access to higher education, globally. UNHCR and Partners have committed to ensuring that 15% of young refugees can access the benefits of higher education by year 2030- the 15by30 target.