Our Story

Our Story

The Founding of the Africa Educational Trust

The Africa Educational Trust (AET) was founded in 1958 to support education for African people, particularly those involved in the continent’s struggle for independence. The founders were strong opponents of colonial rule and brought together prominent activists, such as the Reverend Michael Scott, with leading academics in African Studies including Professor Kenneth Kirkwood and Professor Roland Oliver. Together, the founders raised funds to support African students, especially exiles and refugees from white minority regimes in Southern Africa. This enabled them to obtain higher education in Europe (mostly the UK) and gain the skills and knowledge necessary to build and lead independent states.

Scholarship Provision

Between 1958 and 1996, nearly 6,000 exiles and students from all over Africa – South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria and Ghana – gained higher level academic and vocational qualifications in the UK, thanks to support from AET.

Notable scholarship students have included:

  • Kenneth Kaunda, former President of the Republic of Zambia
  • Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was the first female head of the African Union Commission and is currently Minister in the Presidency for the National Planning Commission for Policy and Evaluation
  • Dr Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Republic of South Africa
  • Professor Derrick Swartz, former Vice Chancellor of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University as well as former Vice Chancellor and Principal of Fort Hare University, South Africa
  • Professor Peter Katjavivi, Speaker of Parliament, Namibia
  • Bience Gawanas, Special Adviser on Africa for United Nations, former Commissioner for Social Affairs, African Commission

Shift to In-Country Programmes

With the end of apartheid in South Africa in 1993, the time for providing scholarships for African political activists came to a close. AET shifted to a developmental approach and started to provide on the ground support to education in African countries. AET decided to prioritise work in fragile states and areas of conflict where many people were unjustly excluded from access to education. Education projects were started in Somaliland in 1996 and South Sudan in 1997. These later expanded to other parts of Somalia, Uganda and Kenya. The programmes have concentrated on finding innovative ways to provide formal and non-formal education for disadvantaged children and young people. Our work has a strong focus on promoting gender equality and a commitment to working with and through local communities and organisations and also with regional and national authorities.

To date, our programmes in Africa have benefited over three million children, young people and adults. AET continues to advance the case for education for all in the belief that education will provide the means for people to recover from poverty, conflict and restore representative and responsive government.


For more information on our work, and how you can get involved, please contact us.

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Our Timeline


1958 – AET is founded – starts providing small grants for African students to study internationally

1980 – Establishes Southern African scholarship programme

1982 – Launches Small Emergency Grants programme for students

1993 – Research begins on refugees and employment, African conflicts, and non-formal education

1995 – Starts work in Somalia

1996 – Starts work in South Sudan

Opens office in Hargeisa for Somaliland

1998 – Starts work in Uganda

2000 – Opens regional support office in Nairobi, Kenya

2001 – Opens office in Bosaso for Puntland (moved to Garowe 2006)

2002 – Opens office in Mogadishu for Central and South Somalia

2003 – Opens offices in Rumbek, Yambio and Panyagor in South Sudan

2005 – Opens office in Juba, South Sudan

2009 – Opens office in Kampala, Uganda

2010 – Receives ‘Impact Award’ by Stars Foundation for work in Somaliland.

2014 – Starts work in Kenya

Meet our Founders

AET was set up in 1958 by a group of people with different backgrounds, professions and political allegiances who shared a common commitment to helping people in Africa prepare for independence from colonialism.  Many were pioneers in their field and some were still at an early stage in their careers.

Our Founders