PhD scholarship holder Lena Gronbach has received the 2021 ‘weitergeben’ Social Engagement Prize which is awarded annually by the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes (German Academic Scholarship Foundation). Five other scholarship holders were selected as finalists and will receive prizes for their projects. In the start-up category, which supports social initiatives in their early stages, an additional five projects will be awarded start-up prizes. The competition is funded by the alumni association of the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes.
The first prize, awarded to Lena Gronbach and her ‘Africademics’ project, is valued 5,000 Euro. Africademics is a scholarship platform for African students, early career researchers and youth. It publishes information about scholarships and other funding opportunities and connects young scholars in and from Africa. The organization aims to increase access to higher education among African youth and to build a network of volunteers and supporters at African universities and research institutions.
What started as a small Facebook page in July 2019 has grown into an active platform with over 16,000 followers, as well as its own website, weekly scholarship newsletter, WhatsApp channel, and a broad social media presence. Africademics has shared over 1,000 scholarships and opportunities and launched its University Ambassador Programme in May 2020. Through its first cohort of 24 volunteer Ambassadors, Africademics is present at 22 universities in 10 African countries.
“I had the idea to start Africademics when I was looking for a scholarship to fund my PhD studies in South Africa. Being a German citizen studying outside of the EU made it very difficult for me to access funding, but I was amazed by the large number of opportunities for African students I came across in my scholarship search. However, I realized that many of these scholarships are not well-known among students and young scholars in African countries and therefore fail to have the transformative impact they could – and should – have. This is partly due to the limited resources and capacity of African universities when it comes to sharing opportunities, as well as language barriers and limited internet access”, says Lena.
„Receiving the 2021 ‚weitergeben – Social Engagement’ award has reinforced my drive for more equality and opportunities in the field of higher education”, the 30-year old PhD candidate adds. The prize money will be used to expand the Africademics University Ambassador Programme, share more scholarships and opportunities, offer webinars and information events about scholarships and funding opportunities, and offer personal support for students wishing to apply for a scholarship.
About the founder
Lena Gronbach is currently completing her PhD in Sociology at the University of Cape Town, focusing on social protection, cash transfers and financial inclusion in sub-Saharan Africa. The Studienstiftung has been funding her PhD studies since 2019. In 2011 the Studienstiftung also funded her Bachelor’s studies in International Business School at ESB Business School in Reutlingen, Germany, followed by her Master’s degree in Development Studies at the University of Pretoria.
Her personal commitment and dedication convinced the jury: “Through Africademics, Lena Gronbach makes it possible for students and youth in African countries to access information about funding and scholarships and to connect with other young leaders. I was particularly impressed by her strong personal role in the project, as well as the broader social dimension of the project. Africademics has positioned itself in a particularly important field in international collaboration and development and strives to offer young people a better future and new perspectives through education”, says jury member Annette Rupp, founding commissioner of the Kulturstiftung Schloss Wiepersdorf (Wiepersdorf Castle Cultural Foundation).
Award ceremony and fundraising campaign
The annual ‚weitergeben – Social Engagement’ prize recognizes social initiatives and projects by Studienstiftung scholarship recipients who have either started a social organization or are active in an existing social project.
Africademics founder Lena Gronbach and the other finalists will be invited to present their initiatives at the formal award ceremony which will take at the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences on 14 June 2021.
In addition, the Studienstiftung will support all finalists through a fundraising campaign among its alumni network and partners. More information about the fundraising campaign will be published on the Studienstiftung website at the end of November.
For more information, read the official press release (in German) here: https://www.studienstiftung.de/pressemitteilungen/artikel/weitergeben-engagementpreise-2021-gehen-an-elf-gemeinnuetzige-projekte/