MONROVIA, Montserrado â€“ The Mandela Institute for Development Studies has announced recipients of the inaugural batch of the Mandela Centennial Scholarship Programme, with Blessing Caine, a 2016 graduate of Firestone Senior High School as the only beneficiary from Liberia.
The scholarship is being awarded in partnership with the GraÃ§a Machel Trust and the African Leadership University. It was designed to celebrate the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela.
Caine is among 100 outstanding young Africans from disadvantaged countries selected from a pool of over 750 applicants to benefit from a full scholarship to the African Leadership University in Rwanda.
She told The Bush Chicken that with the scholarship, she will be able to contribute to Liberiaâ€™s prosperity.
â€œI feel sad being the only Liberian, but I am also grateful that Liberia is represented,â€ she said.
Caine said her selection also further indicates that women have limitless potentials and their gender should not affect their ability to make great accomplishment.
â€œWe do not need to be pitied or conditioned; we only need access to opportunities and platforms that can enable us to explore our potentials and we can definitely achieve greater feats,â€ she added.
Caine, who isÂ a junior student at Stella Maris Polytechnic, said she had earlier applied to study at the African Leadership University and was admitted. However, she said she was worried about being able to pay the fees and other expenses as the initial scholarship she received from the university was not enough to cover all her expenses. She said she was notified of the Mandela Centennial Scholarship Programme and applied.
â€œThe application required us writing a 500 to 1,000-word essay about lessons we have learned from Nelson Mandela and his passion for education, highlighting our community service impact, leadership experience as well as a proposed plan to contribute to Africa if we are accepted into the program and acquire our education,â€ she said.
â€œAdditionally, we had to participate in a gamified skill assessment called Knack, a measure of aspects of our personality or aptitude, including critical thinking, concentration, resilience, and taking ownership.â€
While attending the university in Rwanda, Caine said she will also seek to develop her social enterprise model to address some of the challenges of youth unemployment and skills gap in Liberia.
According to a press release from the African Leadership University, each Mandela Centennial scholar will receive a US$8,000 grant each year to cover full tuition, airfare, and living expenses.
GraÃ§a Machel, the founder of GraÃ§a Machel Trust and Mandelaâ€™s wife, said the scholarship was special because it celebrates Mandelaâ€™s birthday.
â€œThe best way to celebrate him is to plant seeds of ethical, vigorous, and committed leadership to our countries and the world,â€ she was quoted as saying.
Featured photo courtesy of Blessing Caine