While the staff at UWCSEA give enormous amounts of time and energy to their students at the College, for 17 years a number of them have also been financially supporting scholars at other UWC’s. To date, UWCSEA staff have financially supported 16 scholars to complete their IB Diploma at either Waterford Kamhlaba UWC in Swaziland or UWC Mahindra College in Pune, India.
Initially established to help a student in our community finish their IB Diploma at UWCSEA, once that student had graduated the staff looked for ways to continue the programme. There seemed to be a natural connection with UWCSEA’s long-standing partner Lamdon School in Ladakh and UWC Mahindra; both were in India, both were looking for opportunities for their students and Mahindra had a goal to include students from minority ‘tribal populations’. The first scholar from this partnership, Dr Padma Chosden, graduated in 2000 and has since returned to Ladakh after completing medical studies in India. She is now a practicing doctor specialising in gynaecology.
The Staff Scholarship Fund will continue this partnership in August 2015, as Sonam Gurmet joins Mahindra as the 10th staff supported scholar from Ladakh. Sonam was selected in March after teachers Nathan Hunt (Dover Campus), Mary Newbigin and Shruti Tewari (East Campus) travelled to the Lamdon School in Ladakh to participate in the selection process. Sonam has attended the Lamdon School as a sponsored student for the past nine years leaving his father, grandfather, and three younger siblings to travel 400km to school from his remote community. Since Grade 5 Sonam has returned home in the holidays and taught the children in the local community, with up to 50 children attending his informal classes. Sonam spent considerable time discussing a possible career path as a civil engineer and the impact he could have on the Ladakh community if he became a skilled engineer. Despite the wealth of superb candidates at Lamdon, Sonam’s selection was a unanimous choice - he was clearly exactly the sort of student that would make the best of this great opportunity.
Originally supporting a single scholar through their studies before recruiting another, the Staff Scholarship Fund has grown, and currently around 120 staff across the two campuses support four students - two at Mahindra and two at Waterford - through their IB Diplomas. They also assist UWCSEA’s National Committee scholars with the costs of visas and flights when they begin university. As these funds are dispersed overseas, the money is raised solely via direct salary deductions.
The most recent graduate, Sisekelo Dlamini (Class of 2014, Waterford, pictured above in a Grade 1 music class, filming their environment song on a 'green screen') came to UWCSEA during April, having graduated in December 2014. He visited at the invitation of the Staff Scholarship Fund, and spent a month between the campuses, living in the boarding houses, visiting classrooms and staffrooms, and even traveling to Sibu with a Grade 7 expedition - the week by the sea was a first for the citizen of a landlocked country. Sisekelo returned to Waterford in May, and will spend a further three months volunteering as a Teaching Assistant at Waterford, before getting ready to commence a Mechanical Engineering degree at the African Leadership University in Mauritius.
Scholar recruitment for UWC Waterford works slightly differently, as Sisekelo explained on his recent visit, “I attended on a partial scholarship up until Grade 10. After that, my mother said that she could not afford to send me there any longer. But I was so determined to do my IB that I turned up for orientation anyway, and a few days later the school called me to the side and told me that I was being given a scholarship funded by some teachers in Singapore. I was so grateful and happy that I had been given a chance through my perseverance. I met Cathy Elliott when she visited Waterford, and I had thought she must be a very rich woman! ... but having come to UWCSEA I can see that it is a collaborative effort by ordinary people that has funded my scholarship. Everyone has contributed a little and I would like to thank them for that."
In addition, staff donations also support the scholarship enrichment fund for scholars who attend UWCSEA. These funds, raised via the Foundation, go towards participation costs while scholars are at UWCSEA, such as traveling on sports tours or Project Week, or taking a Gap Year.