African Union postgraduate scholarships for the disabled

The African Union is granting postgraduate scholarships to people with disabilities from across the continent – the first time that the continental body has tailored grants specifically for disadvantaged learners.

The pan-African body announced that scholarships would be granted in 2015 to people living with permanent disabilities, as part of the larger Mwalimu Nyerere African Union Scholarship Scheme.

Introduced in 2007, the scheme aims to contribute to the production and retention of high-level African human capital and to promote the mobility of students across the continent.

The scheme is for qualified people interested in pursuing masters degrees in selected fields of learning, including the social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, mathematics, education sciences and sports sciences.

“The scheme, as with all other AU schemes in education, science, technology and youth development, is open to everyone without discrimination,” said Dr Beatrice Njenga, head of the African Union’s education division.

People living with disabilities had been given preferential consideration during the 2015 call for application, to enhance their chances of clinching scholarships offered under the Mwalimu Nyerere scheme.

“Through open calls, we find that we get less than 30% female applicants and a minimal number of students with disabilities,” Njenga told University World News.

“For this reason, we had a specific call for female students only in 2013 and 2014, and in 2015 we have targeted only students with disabilities to enhance the chances of reaching this category of young Africans,” she explained.

The programme

Under the special programme, disabled learners will be allowed to study at universities of their choice – although the institutions must have appropriate facilities. The fact that many universities do not cater for disabled people may limit who benefits from the grants, Njenga added.

“Many universities do not yet have disability-friendly facilities, so this will limit the universities that can admit disabled students. We will have to wait and see,” she said, when asked how many learners were likely to benefit.

All forms of impairment will be considered, and will be a condition for eligibility, along with being a citizen of an AU member state, being under 35 years old, and holding a bachelor degree in the relevant field from a reputable university.

Applicants are also required to be willing and able to commit themselves to studying full-time.

Tuition fees for a maximum of two years will be paid by the AU, over and above a monthly stipend of US$500 for living expenses, a book allowance of US$500 per year and a round-trip economy fare for the most direct route between the beneficiary’s home country and the study destination.

Furthermore, there is a one-off payment of US$1,000 for purchase of a laptop computer, another one-off US$350 for terminal expenses for shipping after successful completion of study, and US$250 for airport transfers at the beginning of studies.

Applications must be sent to the programme administrators by 31 March 2015. The details plus application forms are available on the African Union website.