Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program begins at IU

485807_actualAs he welcomed 25 of Sub-Saharan Africa’s brightest young people to Indiana University on Monday, Teshome Alemneh cited two well-known proverbs about the power of education.

One proverb, from Alemneh’s native land of Ethiopia, simply says, “He who learns, teaches.”

The other proverb, commonly shared across the Democratic Republic of Congo, says, “Wisdom is like fire. People take it from others.”

As Alemneh shared the proverbs, many in the audience nodded in agreement or audibly voiced their agreement.

“Through the program, we hope that you’ll build technical capacity in areas such as community building, entrepreneurship, grassroots activism, leadership and volunteerism,” said Alemneh, IU associate vice president for international research and development.

Enthusiasm is high, not only among IU officials, but particularly among this group of young African leaders, aged 25 to 35, who were selected to participate in the U.S. State Department’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program.

They went through orientation and were formally welcomed to the IU campus at a reception Monday evening at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

Over the next six weeks, they will learn how individual Americans shape U.S. society through community engagement, business development and governmental activity, and compare it with experiences and opportunities on the African continent.

David Zaret, IU vice president for international affairs, Monday welcomed the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program to IU.

David Zaret, IU vice president for international affairs, Monday welcomed the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program to IU.

They will learn from IU faculty at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, the Maurer School of Law, the African Studies Center, Political and Civic Engagement, the Kelley School of Business and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Visits are planned at Cook Inc., the Bloomington Herald-Times, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Indiana Department of Correction. They will learn more about workforce development offered at Ivy Tech Community College. They will also engage with staff at BioCrossroads and the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis.

On July 18, in celebration of Mandela Day, the fellows will engage in community service activities with Big Car Collaborative and other community organizations in Indianapolis.

Another part of IU’s far-reaching international legacy

Alemneh was joined by David Zaret, IU vice president for international affairs, who said IU’s involvement in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program is yet another example of how IU is engaged globally and helping to make the world a better place.

Zaret recounted a history that goes back more than 100 years, to the early 1900s, when IU faculty helped the Philippines to develop its public education system. After World War II, IU helped to found the Free University of Berlin, and has been active across Europe, Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa in helping to develop or improve higher education institutions.

In 1965, IU helped Thailand to found the National Institute of Development Administration, which trains the majority of the country’s civil servants. This spring, Zaret and IU President Michael A. McRobbie traveled there to help NIDA celebrate its 50th anniversary.

About 15 years ago, IU helped to found South East European University in Macedonia. After the fall of the former Yugoslavia, various ethnic groups were engaged in a civil war. After the end of the conflict, the university was established with support from the European Union and the Ford Foundation.

It was the first university in Macedonia to offer instruction in Albanian, Macedonian and English. “It now has several thousand students, no more shooting and students are integrated. It is an example of the kind of thing that we try to do,” Zaret said.

IU also has been engaged in working on leadership development projects that promote managerial skills, economic and democratic reform and professional development across Africa – including in South Africa, South Sudan, Angola and Liberia.

Mandela Washington Fellows come from 18 African countries

The 14 female and 11 male participants in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program come from 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nations represented include Angola, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea-Conakry, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo and Zimbabwe.

They include physicians, social entrepreneurs, advocates for the disabled and for women’s health issues, a management consultant, scientists and a school teacher.

Launched in 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellowship empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities and support for activities in their communities.

After spending four weeks at IU Bloomington and two weeks at IUPUI, the Mandala Washington Fellows will join their peers now studying at more than 35 other U.S. universities at a White House event in early August. President Barack Obama is expected to attend.

“As much as you will learn and enrich your experiences, the program also is designed in such a way that we also learn,” Alemneh said. “It’s going to be a two-way communication. We are also here to learn from you, as much as you are here to learn from us.

“You are the young leaders, the future of Africa.”

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