An investment in global education is in fact an investment in the power of young people. When we invest in education in Africa, we empower young people to tackle the challenges their countries face, generate solutions, mobilise others to act, address inequities, and help to reduce poverty.
These young people, like MasterCard Foundation Scholar Joseph Munyambanza, are already leaders. After fleeing the Democratic Republic of the Congo when he was six, Joseph grew up in Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in Uganda. It is an inhospitable place and, at the time, was home to 26,000 refugees. Joseph endured unimaginable hardships, but he survived.
At the age of 14, Joseph and a group of his friends created COBURWAS, an ambitious organization that transforms communities through education and leadership. It aims to develop a unified group of young leaders to tackle the greatest challenges facing their communities, like education, housing, and enterprise development. COBURWAS programs include an innovative nursery and primary school in Kyangwali, a Youth Hostel Program in a nearby town allowing over 100 students to attend secondary school, a peace program in the Eastern DRC, conferences and workshops on leadership and non-violence, and other projects and programs operated by our various branches.
Joseph is a MasterCard Foundation Scholar and a recent graduate of Westminster College. He embodies qualities that we would admire in anyone, like empathy, selflessness and hard work. Most importantly, Joseph is a leader – not only within his community but also on the global stage. He has served as an advisor on International Education to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and to UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown.
Joseph characterizes the power that a truly global education can have – on individuals, but also on families, communities, even entire nations, where access to quality, appropriate education can have a considerable social and economic impact. Research tells us that developing countries, education can have a positive effect on health, women’s rights and fertility as well as individual earnings.
When we invest in education it has multiplier effects. With access to a quality, global education individuals like Joseph can become powerful actors in their own lives, and in the lives of those in their families and communities. Like Joseph, they can begin to create a more just and equitable world.
Reeta Roy is President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation. A passionate advocate, Reeta works to ensure that the Foundation is focused on the people it serves, and she travels extensively in the communities where it is active. Reeta is a member of the Aspen Philanthropy Group and the World Economic Forum on Social Innovation. She has spoken before a wide array of fora including the UN General Assembly (for the International Year of Youth), the Clinton Global Initiative, the World Innovation Summit for Education, and the UNESCO Youth Forum.