Moderator, Ford Foundation Programme Officer, Margaret Mliwa (left); Director of Operations, Agricultural Development Corporation, Mohamed Bulle; Partner Coordinator for the African Storybook, South African Institute for Distance Education, Dorcas Wepukulu; Senator Dr. Agnes Zani; and the Acting Director, Ministry of Education, Fredrick Haga, during publication launch by Ford Foundation at Nairobi, Kenya.

The Institute of International Education (IIE) in collaboration with the Ford Foundation last week released a new report emphasising the value and impact of the foundation’s International Fellowships Programme (IFP) on marginalised communities.

The report as issued by Ford’s Foundation and titled “Transformational leaders and social change: IFP impacts in Africa and the Middle East,” is part of a 10-year alumni tracking study of the foundation’s IFP, as well as the single largest programme commitment in its history, “in which $420 million was invested.”

In all the four locations under review, Kenya, Nigeria, Palestine, and South Africa, the results of the fieldwork showed that higher education is key to advancing social justice in a community and societal level.

The report also revealed the profound impact that the programme had on female alumni and their communities.

In the overall, the report revealed the crucial role of alumni as models and mentors in their various communities as advocates for social justice.

According to the Foundation’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa, Maurice Makoloo, the report which shared the perspectives of 361 IFP alumni and local stakeholders, provided important insights into the personal, organisational, community, and societal impacts of IFP alumni in Kenya, Nigeria, Palestine, and South Africa.

“This study confirms that when every person irrespective of their background is provided with as equal opportunity as the next person, they develop their talents to incredible high levels.

Ultimately, the investment in these individuals empowers them to make significant contributions to advance our society.

In many cases, IFP Fellows were the first people in their families and local communities to obtain post-graduate degrees, and in some cases, to obtain any degree at all.”

She explained that between 2001 and 2013, IFP supported graduate-level education for 4,305 social justice leaders from the world’s most vulnerable populations in 22 countries in the developing world, representing a wide range of groups discriminated against on account of their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, economic and educational background, or physical disability.

IFP’s underlying assumption was that, given the right tools, emerging leaders from disadvantaged communities could excel in postgraduate studies and return home to improve conditions in their communities, she stressed.

IIE’s Head of Research, Evaluation and Learning, Mirka Martel, on his part explained that the results of the study shows a largely positive impact, with alumni asserting that their IFP experience increased their confidence, awareness, self-identity, commitment, leadership, and career advancement despite challenges upon re-entry at the end of the fellowship.

Despite being from four different locations, the report disclosed that the alumni share certain commonalities, which include past challenges stemming from discrimination and economic hardship, their dedication to social justice activism, and their commitment to IFP in their home communities.

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