East African regional body in German scholarship deal

The government of Germany has joined hands with the Inter-University Council of East Africa (IUCEA) to fund a US$5.5 million regional masters degree scholarship scheme – part of a broader commitment of US$35 million by Germany to the East African Community (EAC) to further support the regional organisation in health, regional economic integration and education.

The agreement between the EAC and Germany was signed in Arusha, Tanzania last week.

The scholarship funding, under the East African Community Scholarship programme, will support the training of three cohorts of 157 masters students from six member states of the bloc, including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, over a period of three years. The scholarships will be offered to academically ‘skilled’ but disadvantaged students.

“The target is needy, gifted students pursuing masters studies in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and business,” Professor Mike Kuria, deputy executive secretary of IUCEA, told University World News in an interview.

Beneficiaries will undertake studies in a university in a member country of their choice other than their home country which, besides helping to achieve the overall goal of fostering regional integration, will also help in the internationalisation of higher education, said Kuria.

Selected students, Kuria said, will be involved in regional co-curricular activities under component B of the initiative, which starts later in the year, following last week’s grant agreement. While the activities form part of the scholarship scheme – divided into three components A, B and C – the co-curricular activities fall under component B.

Under component B, students will take part in at least one event annually during the two-year study period, which includes networking events and seminars on regional integration topics.

The students will also benefit from mentorship in their universities of choice to support them throughout their duration of study in developing a “regional identity”, he said.

There are also plans to include short courses on regional integration to be offered to EAC staff under component C of the scheme, aimed at aiding in a better understanding and performance of their duties, Kuria said.

“The details of the short courses will be determined after a skills analysis by the EAC secretariat,” Kuria said.

Work on the implementation of the initiative was just beginning, the professor said, adding that host universities had not yet been selected.

“The scheme is in its inception phases and we will have to develop criteria and select universities to host the programme,” Kuria said. He did not disclose the timelines for the activities.

Designed along the lines of the European Erasmus scholarship programme, the East Africa scholarship scheme was first mooted in 2017, and was later followed by the signing of a financing agreement between representatives of the federal government of Germany and the EAC in April 2018.