Report Documents Carnegie Corporation-Supported Women’s Scholarship Program in South Africa

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A new report published by South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training documents the impacts of a 10-year foundation-funded effort to support and increase the number of undergraduate women—primarily in the sciences—attending South African universities.

The report Siyaphambili: Young Women on the Move presents the stories of some of the program’s graduates and also serves as a career guidance and support tool for female students throughout South Africa.

“There are few investments more effective in creating a vibrant society that can compete on the global stage than supporting a rising generation of educated young women,” said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York.  “Assisting more women to achieve higher levels of education—especially in the sciences—will not only increase national productivity and contribute to the knowledge that drives innovation but also help to create a path to a brighter and more rewarding future for men, women and children in countries around the world.” 

The Carnegie-South Africa Undergraduate Women’s Scholarship Programme was established in 2002 by Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Department of Higher Education (South Africa) to help transform the country’s higher education system to meet a range of social, economic and human resource development goals in South Africa’s a rapidly developing society.  The South Africa program was part of the Corporation’s broader African higher education strategy which includes the implementation of scholarship programs for undergraduate women in targeted Sub-Saharan countries.

“The goals of the program—to support young women at undergraduate level, primarily in the science fields—remain relevant today,” said Dr B. E. Nzimande, South Africa’s Minister of Higher Education and Training.  “Although there has been an improvement in participation by young women in science, there is still a great deal that needs to be done. It is exciting to see that many of the Carnegie graduates have continued with postgraduate study and some have entered research careers. Many others are making a significant contribution in their workplaces and to the productivity of the country.”

Despite increasing parity between men and women at all levels of the South African education system, women continue to be underrepresented in the fields of science, engineering and technology. As one strategy towards addressing these imbalances, Carnegie Corporation of New York invited the Department of Education to submit a proposal to host an initiative which would provide full university scholarships to three cohorts of 50 young women each, recruited over three consecutive years from 2003 to 2005.

In 2002, Carnegie committed full funding for these scholarships as part of its broader strategy of enhancing women’s educational opportunities at African universities by increasing the number of women who enter undergraduate programs through the provision of scholarships. Carnegie Corporation’s total investment in the program exceeded $6 million over 10 years.

“Not only did the program target fields in which women remain under-represented, but it also focused on young women of limited financial means,” said Andrea Johnson, the Carnegie Corporation program officer who helped to design the program and has led the 10-year initiative.  “The scholarships covered all expenses—tuition, fees, books, and a stipend—which allowed the students to put all their energy into their academic work.  For many, the comprehensive financial support made the difference between success and dropping out.” 

Fields in which women are significantly underrepresented, and in which there are national skills shortages were prioritized. These included: natural sciences (including the health sciences); engineering and technology (information and communication technology); economics, business; and education.

The scholarship recipients were recruited and selected to reflect South Africa’s complex demographic realities. As of February 2011, a total of 125 of the 150 students had completed their first degrees, with 10 still studying and one awaiting her results. The majority of recipients are either continuing to study at senior postgraduate level, or are employed in South Africa.

About Carnegie Corporation of New York

Carnegie Corporation of New York, one of the most enduring and iconic organizations in philanthropy, is celebrating the centennial of its founding by the Scottish immigrant industrialist Andrew Carnegie.

Endowed to do “real and permanent good in this world,” Carnegie Corporation reflects Andrew Carnegie’s belief in investing for the long term.

As distinct from charitable giving, which provides short-term relief for immediate needs, Mr. Carnegie’s philanthropy was focused on the future, on promoting progress on the issues he cared most about, such as education and international peace. Mr. Carnegie’s forward-thinking philosophy continues to guide and inform the Corporation’s grantmaking.