16 April 2021
I am Harriette Adhiambo Okal. My motherland is Kenya, from the Luo tribe who are settled at the shores of Lake Victoria. I am 27 years old and blessed to be a firstborn to my five siblings.
I am a holder of a Master’s Degree in Land and Water Management from the University of Embu and Bachelor’s degree in Water Resources Management from the University of Nairobi. My areas of expertise include but not limited to, Hydrology, Remote Sensing and GIS, Climate Change and Climate Action, Integrated Water Resources Management, Environmental Impact Assessment, Ecological Systems Services, Watershed Management and Environmental Law and Policy.
Road to Rhodes University
It has always been a dream/ goal of mine to pursue my doctoral studies before I get to 30, hence, this fueled my zeal to work extra hard both in my studies and extra-curricular activities. Before the passing of my granddad, he held my hand and told me that I will study till I can’t study no more. Okay, let me paraphrase that, he blessed me with the family’s-Okal’s- academic mantle. I was only 5 years then and throughout my studies, those words have always been in the back of my mind. I thank God for excelling all through, from my primary, high, undergrad to my postgrad studies.
After completing my Master’s degree, I spent most of my time rummaging for doctoral scholarships and most of the feedbacks were of course, regrets. Sad. Hence, when I was applying for the AWaRMN scholarship, I did not expect much. I knew the competition was so stiff, therefore, when I got the Award Letter, I burst into tears. I could not believe it. I had to tell my colleague to read it for me in order to confirm the phrase ‘We are pleased to inform you that you have been chosen’. In the midst of my shuddering, I had to call my family to report the good news. I kid you not when I say that my mum cried in thanksgiving and I could feel how proud my dad was through the phone call.
I, honestly, could not wait for my study visa to be approved and received it earlier than anticipated. The joy my family had during the preparation phase was incomparable. Almost every day, my mom would ask me if I have all the stuff I needed before the big day-28th February, 2021. All my family members and some relatives accompanied me to the Kisumu International Airport. Can you picture it? I know you can. It was the most beautiful and saddest goodbye in my life!!
I had to board three airplanes to get to my destination (i) Jambo Jet from Kisumu International Airport to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi (ii) Kenya Airways from JKIA to OR Tambo International Airport, Jo’burg, South Africa and (iii) British Airways from OR Tambo to Port Elizabeth International Airport. On arrival at Port Elizabeth, I got to Grahamstown via a shuttle, previously organized by the coordinators. Upon arrival, I was warmly received by Dr. Chika Nnadozie who made sure I had a place to rest for the night.
Meeting the Crew
I am eternally grateful to Dr. Chika for ensuring my matters accommodation were sorted against all odds. She has made certain that I am as comfortable as I can be both in the office and my residence to this date. I got to meet Prof. Nelson Odume who was so welcoming. He has continually assured that everything is running smoothly without any problem inside and outside the university. Thank you Prof. I am honored to have met my fellow AWaRMN awardees; Ms. Mary Chibwe and Mr. Edgar Tumwesigye who helped me a whole lot and corroborated that I got all the assistance I needed to familiarize myself within the university environment as well as outside the university. They have been and continue to be a great and fundamental support system.
Dr. Rebecca Powell has also been a vital pillar when it comes to administration and incorporation into the Institute for Water Research. Meeting your supervisor isn’t always comfortable on many occasions, but meeting mine was a whole new experience. It was great to meet Dr. Jane Tanner, and she was very welcoming. I am honored to have her as my supervisor for this journey. Let’s do this!! I am ready!!
I am looking forward to meet the other crew members, whom due to Covid-19, are working from home. Specifically, Prof. Tally Palmer and Ms. Juanita McLean.
I am humbled to have been among the few granted with this opportunity to pursue their studies and career goals further. A special thanks to the funders of the AWaRMN programme; the European Union and the African Union, and to the coordinators for this amazing platform. This young lady from Kenya is going to achieve her dreams and is making many people proud because of you. Asante Sana and God bless you all.
Last Modified: Mon, 19 Apr 2021 15:58:24 SAST
By Mary Chibwe
PhD candidate under the AwARMN Project 2021-2024
15 April 2021
I am Mary Chibwe and hails from Lusaka, Zambia. I am a Lecturer, an Environmental activist and a Mentor for School/University female students pursuing or intending to pursue careers in Science, Mathematics and Technology (STEM). Having pursued a first degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics, my career was heading straight to a clinical research laboratory but before I even finished my BSc, my passion for water had already pushed me out of the clinical laboratory into the environment. With a group of zealous fellow students we took matters in our own hands and offered ourselves to solve the problem of unpleasant odour in water supplied to communities to the Southern part of Ndola, a town in the Copperbelt Province. The water supplier gave us laboratory space, support and staff to supervise us. We worked with passion and this vacation activity produced great results and recommendation which were adopted by the company. This ignited my passion for water and it was not strange that I chose a job which involved me teaching water quality and conducting practical trainings in rural water quality management in Zambia.
I needed an opportunity to consolidate the Molecular biology, Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and Public Health; and enhance my research skills. When the world came to stand still in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic; work and play become 100% online. I was switching between online lecturers and boredom when I stumbled upon something good; a call for scholarships by The Africa Water Resource Mobility Network (AWARMN). At that time, good news was rare online, it was more about statistics of death and Covid-19 cases so I got excited and started the application process immediately. I was excited to see an opportunity which addressed water resource management from a public health perspective and involved application of molecular biology. This was a perfect definition of my passion and a rare combination of the three disciplines I have studied. To cut the long story short, I got accepted out of the many who responded to this call. Awesome!!! Some good news in a year which was filled with some such negative news and uncertainty.
With the excellent arrangements by Ms Juanita Mclean, Professor Nelson Odume and Dr Chika Nnadozie, my VISA application was smooth and my flights arrangements were organised. I packed my bags on 10th February, 2021 left Zambia and began my journey to Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. I flew into Johannesburg but my mission in South African had nothing to do with the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg, so I headed to the Eastern side of South Africa and landed right next to the Indian Ocean in Port Elizabeth, a good reminder that I was here to study about water resources. After about a 1 hour 30 minutes drive with cool air blowing on my face as I enjoyed scenery of game ranches along the road I was in Grahamstown. Accommodation within the university is ideal; especially for foreign students but staying within the hostels was going to cost me an arm and a leg, so I opted to stay out of campus. Thanks to Professor Odume and Dr Chika Nnadozie who assisted me with making prior arrangements for accommodation. Within two days I was already registered as a PhD student, thanks to Sinetemba (MSc student) who assisted with registration and taught me how to greet and respond to a greeting in IsiXhosa. Dr Rebecca Powell was very helpful with the administrative paper work while Ms Juanita Mclean works so efficiently that I am taken care of financially. Nandipa Ngoni (MSc student) was there to show me around the laboratory at Institute for Water Research (IWR), Biological Sciences and Chemistry faculties. Khaya was also very helpful with ensuring that settled well at IWR. Am also grateful to Mrs Ejiro Odume and Frank (soon to be Dr Akamagwuna) who were kind enough to show me the corners of Grahamstown. When my fellow Intra Africa Mobility Network PhD students Edgar Tumwesigye and Harriette Okal arrived, I was already familiar with both the University and the town. I have met a number of people at IWR in person and have met almost everyone during our zoom meetings. I am impressed with the team work and dedication; and I hope to learn a lot from the whole team lead by Professor Tally Palmer.
So here I am at Institute for Water Research; ready to jump on this PhD roller coaster. I thank God for this opportunity. I am ready to face the challenges ahead and like a river, I will flow and overcome all obstacles and see the shore.
Am here to quench my thirst for knowledge and research in Water Resources Science and stamp my passion for water quality with a PhD.
Last Modified: Mon, 19 Apr 2021 15:58:24 SAST
By: Edgar Tumeysigwe
Date: 4 March 2021
It was an exciting opportunity to receive a notification email that I have been awarded a PhD scholarship. My whole family rejoiced for the opportunity. Throughout the year 2020, was preparing for the new environment that I was expecting while staying in South Africa.
The journey from Uganda to South Africa.
The journey from Uganda to South Africa was safe with the exception of the cancellation of the British airways on the afternoon of 18th February 2021 that was supposed to take me from Johannesburg Airport to Port Elizabeth. However, it gave me an opportunity to spend a night in Johannesburg.
Getting accommodation in Grahamstown.
One of my biggest challenges was getting accommodation in Grahamstown, it was very bureaucratic with many steps that required money which I had not budgeted and planned. It started with Prof. Nelson Odume directing me to one of the rental agencies around Grahamstown, and from the start, had been communicating with the administrators of RemaxFrontiers before I departed from Uganda.
Registering at Rhodes University.
It was one of the easiest things to do, and I faced no set-backsl. At the Institute for Water Research, getting keys to my PhD study room was swiftly handled by Dr. Chika Nnadozie and I can now report that I have embarked on serious academic work.
Meeting my fellow PhD students.
It was my honour to meet my fellow PhD students whom we shall be studying together at Rhodes University, Ms Mary Chibwe, and Ms Harriette Okal. I hope we shall be good colleagues working together and cooperating for the good of our PhD journey.
Acknowledgement and appreciation.
I would like to appreciate the following people who made my journey all the way from Uganda to South Africa a successful;
1. Ms JA Mclean – Admin Manager. I don’t know what would have happened without her. Whether I would have managed the processes involved. Her calmness, politeness, and welcoming spirit made me feel at home even before I departed Uganda. She was there for me whenever I needed her most. Replying to my emails constantly, processing my travel documentation instantly. May God grant her more wisdom.
2. Prof O N Odume, all the way from the beginning he has responded to my emails asking much about the whole process. He accepted my disturbances, thank God he is my supervisor.
3. Dr C F Nnadozie, oh what an amazing woman and a mother. She looked after me for almost a week. Feeding me very well and driving me through Grahamstown. May God bless her.
4. University registration staff in the academic registrar’s office. What an amazing group of young ladies and men. They processed my admission certificate and ID card within minutes. They have a bright future ahead.
As I settle down with serious academic work, I understand that a PhD is a person/individual journey with ups and downs, successes and failures. I ask God to grant me wisdom and understanding to withstand all the challenges that may come in the next three years.
I will forever remain grateful to have gotten this fellowship, and it makes me feel that I am not alone on the academic journey of accomplishing my education goals since the fellowship covers other students from other African countries.
Thank you and Blessings.
Last Modified: Mon, 29 Mar 2021 14:45:09 SAST
Due to the high numbers of applications received for the AWaRMN MSc mobility scholarship, the notification of application outcomes has been postponed to 10th November 2020.
Last Modified: Mon, 14 Dec 2020 15:21:49 SAST