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Official launch of University scholarship scheme supporting students from sub-Saharan Africa

Posted on 22 March 2022

The University of York is today (22 March) officially launching its partnership with the Ashinaga Association to provide full scholarships for African students.

Debora and Bheki - Ashinaga scholars 505Debora (left) and Bheki (right) are Ashinaga scholars at the University of York, studying Engineering.

The £1.2 million scholarship scheme supports students from sub-Saharan Africa who have lost one or both of their parents. It is designed to empower young orphaned students with a university education and leadership training so that they can identify problems and find solutions in their communities. 

The University of York is hosting an online event to officially launch this year’s Ashinaga scholarships called "How UK Universities can Empower Student Leaders for Africa".

The Ashinaga Scholarships, which include a full tuition fee waiver, began in the 2021/22 academic year and supports up to six students per year to undertake undergraduate study at the University of York. It is the largest undergraduate scholarship for students from sub-Saharan Africa at any UK university.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Charlie Jeffery said: "We are excited to be working with the Ashinaga Association in the UK to empower the next generation of leaders for Africa. I am delighted that we have welcomed our first three scholars to York this year, and I look forward to seeing the Ashinaga community at York grow each year."

We spoke to two Ashinaga scholars currently at York to learn more about their experiences.

Debora Mulilo 

Before University, Debora grew up in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, with her uncle and her siblings.

She said: "I want to be an engineer; I want to see girls and women take up courses that are believed to be 'only' taken by men. Most engineering courses are dominated by men, but I want to see girls breaking that bias."

She added: "One of the pupils from my school had previously applied for and was picked for Ashinaga. So Ashinaga invited more applicants from my High School.

"After completing my High School, as I was contemplating on what to do next. I thought 'Ok, I’ll apply for Ashinaga and see what happens'".

Now at York, Debora is currently enrolled on a Foundation year in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, and has ambitions to progress to the BEng Electronic and Electrical Engineering in September. 

Returning to studying, and moving to a new country to study has had its challenges.

She added: "I had a gap year before returning to studying, so I had to adapt to the learning system and the environment here. I like it here at York, I’m always occupied and there’s always something to do."

Despite the competitive nature of the Ashinaga programme, Debora encourages those thinking of applying to be optimistic: "You should really take the opportunity, and you shouldn’t think you won’t be picked. Yes, Ashinaga is competitive, but don’t be intimidated: you shouldn’t feel like you can’t try. I also felt I wouldn’t get the scholarship, but here I am. So you should try."

Bheki Ndlovu 

Bheki had a gap year after High School and was considering different University scholarships.

"I was drawn to the Engineering course: a new degree programme. I love the city and the campus – I grew up in a small rural town in Eastern Zimbabwe, and York is a small, quiet city, so it’s perfect for me."

Now Bheki is studying modules covering electronic, electric and medical engineering. Eventually, his ambition is to work in the medical field.

"My future goal is to become a biomedical engineer. I’d like to ensure that people get good treatment and good quality healthcare through the provision of medical equipment in developing countries. I’d like to work as a consultant engineer, or maybe to produce medical devices."

Bheki encourages those from sub-Saharan Africa with ambitions to apply for the programme.

"The Ashinaga programme is competitive, but if you think you’re ambitious enough, to study at one of the UK’s top universities, you have to apply.

"You must prepare yourself for all the stages of the application, but it’s a good programme. They offer full academic support during and following your course.

"If you feel you want to give back to your home country, this is the programme for you."


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