The Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health recently attended The University of Manchester’s annual celebration for those graduating from the Equity and Merit Scholarship: an initiative started in 2007 that has since offered financial support to over 255 individuals from Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia. Not only does this help students gain a postgraduate qualification, but they also gain vital knowledge that could transform their communities.
The scholarship produces graduates who go on to do everything from international fashion marketing, to becoming government ministers and even UN officials. We sat down with the two FBMH students from this year’s cohort, Fatuma Matwewe and Olivier Ndahiriwe, for an incredibly inspiring conversation. Hear what they had to say about studying at Manchester and how the scholarship has changed their lives and so many others in turn…
Olivier – MSc Clinical Immunology
Clinical Immunology is not only a really interesting subject but it is also a relatively new one and with many areas to explore. There are so many things that pertain to the health of people: autoimmunity, hypersensitivity – so many things to do with medicine.
I come from Rwanda, which is a country whose health system is lacking so much, especially in this field – in fact, I will be the first qualified immunologist scientist in the country.
This means that there are a lot of advancements yet to happen and a lot of patients that require immunology, so the first thing I will be doing in the next few years is teaching at universities and preparing the next generation for understanding immunological disorders and hopefully some of them will continue on to further study.
In the long run, I will be learning about how to do things such as organ transplantation, blood transfusions, as well as how to treat and manage other diseases like cancer, as immunology covers various illnesses.
The Equity and Merit scheme has been so rewarding. It targets people who are disadvantaged economically but who have skills and the potential to do big things and are only limited by their means. Thanks to the scheme, opportunities have been unlocked and I can now confidently say that whatever I dream, I can I achieve it.
Aside from the scholarship, I wanted to come to Manchester because of how it is reputed around the world. It is well-renowned for its scientific research and for this subject specifically – which is lacking in many countries around the world – so I was very motivated to come to Manchester, develop important skills and grow my future career.
I must say, although applying for the scholarship is a strenuous process – requiring a lot of writing, thinking about your career prospects and your motivations – the communication from Joanne and David was very informative and you always knew what is ahead of you.
Before my Master’s, I was working in the ministry of health, so when I go back home I can use my experience to influence policies and help more people learn important skills; Rwanda is aiming to be the centre of excellence in African healthcare and I want to be a part of that.
Fatuma – MSc Medical Microbiology
After finishing my Bachelor’s in 2012, I was looking for opportunities when I found out about Equity and Merit from a previous scholar. I was always interested in coming to the UK to improve my English; I chose Manchester because I saw they were well equipped with facilities and had a great reputation.
The interview was great: I had Joanne and she was so kind and friendly – it was the first time we had met and both her and David were so calming throughout.
We had lectures in the morning and afternoon labs, which was easy to follow and where the labs in Tanzania can’t accommodate every student, here, there is room for everyone; the days can be long but as a microbiologist, you’re not just sat in an office writing: you are doing research and finding new things all the time.
A lot of people hear microbiology and only think of bacteria but, at Manchester, the subject covers pretty much every living thing, so I was able to study viral infections also – it was great to study multiple things at once. Before coming to Manchester, I was working at the Ifakara Health Institute, which deals with malaria. I was doing a research project on water sanitation but now I am hoping to engage in other areas, such as biomedical, antibiotics and clinical trials.
This degree is going to help me so much because it has given me experience in modern molecular biology techniques like DNA sequencing, which I can use to apprehend the field of microbiology back home. I won’t just be able to identify known bacterial and viral infections either, I will be able to discover new pathogens as well, which will be an amazing achievement.
I would like to give my sincerest thanks to the donors, not only for what they have done for me but for so many. Most people in Africa can’t afford to study in their country, let alone elsewhere, so coming to the UK is unbelievable.
I want to encourage more people to have the same ‘heart of helping’ and I would encourage others to make sure they seek out these opportunities and even if you don’t succeed at first, keep trying! I think I speak on behalf of all of my peers when I say, in Manchester, we feel like we are home.
‘We Are Tanzania. We Are Manchester.’
To keep up to date with everything going on in Equity and Merit, make sure to follow them on Twitter and if you want to see the impact the programme has made already, why not watch our video showcasing what some of our graduates have gone on to do?