3 March 2014

Africa: Eyes to the Future - Why We Need a Scholarship Fund


A guest blog post by Anna Shepherd, IDS Partnership Fundraising Manager

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

How true this is.

And we all know how much there is in the world that needs to be changed for the better. For every action that must take place - to eradicate poverty, to tackle injustice, to promote respect and equality - there must be a sound underlying theory and strategy, a logical and evidence-based rationale that will win over any doubters and ensure sustainability.

IDS research and teaching provides the underpinning for development theory and action. Our international Alumni go forward equipped to engage with global issues, to make those changes and to go on to teach others.

We receive many applications for our prestigious development masters programmes and requests for PhD supervision. But in too many instances talented men and women are unable to take up their well deserved offer of a place due to financial constraints. This situation produces a class and geographical imbalance amongst our students and unfairly curtails talent and commitment. It is something that our Alumni, students and staff recognise and often identify with - many of us did not get where we are today without a helping hand. (I myself went to university with 2 small children and my PhD was only made possible by substantial support from a well-known medical charity.)

So who are these students who need our support? Let me give you two of many examples:

Twice, a young woman who works in advocacy and support for sex workers in South Africa has applied to IDS and twice she has been accepted. Her NGO work involves striving for human rights, and supporting policy, legal and other interventions; a masters from IDS would both strengthen and inform the important on-the-ground work that she does day in and day out. On each occasion she has tried valiantly to raise the necessary money for her tuition and living costs, only to fail to secure the full amount needed.

Another gifted young man from Pakistan was the fortunate recipient of a fees only scholarship from an outside agency, but this first class candidate had his visa refused by the British High Commission as he was unable to raise the money to make up the difference between the scholarship he had been granted and the full amount required to cover his maintenance. He is from a family that is not well off and lost his father as a young child. As a local government worker, his salary is simply not enough.

The loss of such talent, of the opportunity to educate and collaborate with strategically placed men and women who can make a difference in some of the most challenging corners of the globe, is a loss to us all and to our collective future.

This is why we have the IDS Scholarship Fund. It is the right to education, the striving for betterment of the individual and of society that has impassioned all of us here at IDS, not least our director, Lawrence Haddad, who has recently requested that any tokens of respect and admiration being considered for his imminent departure, be translated into donations to the IDS Scholarship Fund.

Join us. Make a real difference. To one. To many.

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