By Stephanie Brown ’07

Marcelo Cifuentes '11 and Edward Muguza '11
Marcelo Cifuentes ’11 (left) and Edward Muguza ’11, two of the Koenig scholars.

Edward Muguza ’11 is from Glen Norah, Zimbabwe, a high-density suburb near Harare. One day, he was waiting in line to buy sugar for his family when he struck up a conversation with fellow high school students. He realized that, like many in the town, they were planning to drop out of school. He decided to take action.

While his country faced a devastating economic crisis, with soaring inflation and a shortage of food, Muguza organized peer study groups in his community, hoping to encourage students to stay in school. In high school, Muguza was also a finalist in the Zimbabwe Math Olympics. He won his school’s best overall student of the year award.

Muguza arrived at Amherst in August as one of the first five Koenig Scholars. The Koenig Scholarship Fund brings talented low-income students to Amherst from Latin America and Africa. Arthur W. Koenig ’66 has pledged $15 million over 15 years to fund the scholarships. Koenig’s gift is part of a wider effort to bring additional global perspectives to Amherst. Each year, five incoming first-years will receive a Koenig Scholarship, which will provide financial aid during their four years at the college.

The son of a salesman and a homemaker, Muguza is the first in his family to ever board a plane and leave Africa. At Amherst, he is taking courses in psychology, calculus, religion and chemistry. He plans to major in chemistry or physics with a possible second major in psychology.

The other new scholars are Marcelo Cifuentes ’11 of Guatemala, Ojeh Eyona Bikwa ’11 of Nigeria and Emmanuel Bett ’11 and Caca Wanjala ’11, both of Kenya. Cifuentes grew up in Guatemala City, the largest city in Central America, in a home that he shares with his mother. (His father died in a motorcycle accident.) In high school he was a high-achiever, earning praise from teachers across disciplines. At Amherst he hopes to major in math or economics.

Bikwa was co-valedictorian and senior prefect at his high school in Jos, a city in central Nigeria. He placed fifth in a national chemistry competition and earned high scores in his SAT subject exams in physics, chemistry and math. He will likely be a science major at Amherst.

Bett and Wanjala each grew up as the youngest sibling in a polygamous family. Bett, whose father struggled to raise 16 children on a farmer’s earnings, had to interrupt his education several times to work on the family farm. He was valedictorian of his high school class, earning high scores on his SAT subject exams in chemistry, biology and math. He intends to major in economics at Amherst. Wanjala, who has 11 siblings, graduated second in his class and won the Kenya Shell Excellence Award for achievement in secondary education exams. He plans to major in computer science with a possible second major in economics or math.

Photo: Samuel Masinter ’04