CAIRO: The Lotus Scholarship Program (LSP), funded by USAID, granted 44 Egyptian students the opportunity to study in private Egyptian universities to pursue bachelor’s degrees in fields of study that are important to Egypt’s current and future development.
“The LSP is an example of what leading change in Egypt really means. It is the start of something new, but it’s also building on the past,” said US Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey at the official launch of the program.
“This program puts into practice the shared Egyptian and [American] vision of supporting individual and institutional development,” said Scobey. “It supports academic degrees that are appropriate and relevant to Egypt’s future, and builds sustainability for Egypt to take the lead in providing quality higher education to all.”
The LSP is managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE) through its MENA regional office based in Cairo. The IIE manages the LSP through a strong partnership with a wide array of private Egyptian universities and local organizations.
Lotus is offering comprehensive scholarship packages to 100 “talented and deserving” students. However, so far only 44 students — 26 females and 18 males — representing 23 different Egyptian governorates have been awarded the scholarships. According to Lotus, another recruitment cycle will take place in the spring of 2011 for the 56 available scholarships that remain.
The disciplines that the 44 scholarship recipients will study are engineering, pharmaceuticals, dentistry, computer technology, accounting, mass communication, language and translation, political science, international business, and business administration.
The Ahram Canadian University, the British University in Egypt, the Future University in Egypt, the Modern Sciences and Arts University, and the Pharos University in Alexandria are the five private Egyptian universities participating in the LSP.
The scholarship package provides recipients with a host of benefits, covering their full tuition fees, labs and textbooks fees, housing costs during their periods of study, daily transportation, provides a monthly stipend, an annual clothing allowance, a first-year “settling in” allowance, and even supplies students with their own personal laptop computer.
In addition to the monetary benefits, the students will also receive academic mentoring, social counseling, and will participate in the “Leadership in Action” program throughout the duration of their study so that they may nurture their leadership skills.
Forty-five of the 100 scholarship recipients will have the added opportunity of spending a semester abroad at a US university.
Dina Mahmoud, who is currently studying political science at the British University in Egypt, has been abroad for one year as an exchange student in the US through the Lotus program. She describes it as a life-changing experience, stating that she has not only become more mature, responsible and independent, but she has also learned to accept and respect individuals’ differences. She added that she feels she knows herself more after the experience, spurring her to change her field of study from medicine to political science.
“I have learned new techniques and skills from a developed country [like] the US [to bring it back] with me to a developing country [like] Egypt,” said Mahmoud.
The LSP aims to identify and empower young Egyptian men and women who have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership, and involvement within their respective communities. The program strives to give these students an opportunity to attend private universities that would otherwise be out of their families’ financial reach, according to a press statement by IIE.
Furthermore, the program hopes to develop and nurture the scholarship recipients’ leadership potentials, skill sets, and commitment to their community and country so that they are well equipped to become future leaders and advocates for development in their local communities.
As part of the LSP, the students will receive career counseling, orientation into the labor market, and general work experience in order to enhance the recipients’ overall employability and career options.
At the most general level, the LSP hopes to create a network of young people nationwide who are well-educated and passionate about Egypt.
Jim Bever, the mission director for USAID, recognized the diversity of the 2010 scholarship recipients.
“We have 60 percent female [recipients], which is an unusual situation,” said Bever. “The gender balance in education needs to be corrected — for the first time — [so that the scale starts to tip in the opposite direction].”
Scobey also noted that the LSP students are a living example of what US President Barack Obama highlighted in his June 2009 address in Cairo, when Obama stated that — for a new beginning in American relations with the Muslim world to be successful — “all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century.”
Scobey stated that there are plans to expand the LSP’s future exchange programs and the number of LSP scholarships available.