Mercy Kazima

24 November, 2009

Mercy Kazima

‘Any girl (or boy) can do mathematics or any science subject if they are interested and willing to work hard.’

 I was born on 1st May 1965 in Lilongwe, Malawi. I was the third born daughter in a family of seven. My father was a civil servant and my mother was a house wife. I attended primary school mostly in Lilongwe and later attended Malosa secondary school. I was then accepted at the University of Malawi where I studied Bachelor of Education Science programme with mathematics as my major subject. I completed the degree programme in 1988 and then taught mathematics at Lunzu Secondary School. In October 1989 I was accepted into a Bachelor of Science Honours programme in mathematics at the University of Malawi. I completed the one year course towards the end of 1990 and graduated with a second upper class. 

In 2009 for the first time, the University of Malawi has a woman Dean in the Faculty of Education – me!  As a woman I have faced many challenges on my way to this post, but I have persevered.  For instance, when I was an undergraduate I was discouraged by some people who believed that mathematics and sciences in general are hard subjects and especially for girls. This is false because any girl (or boy) can do mathematics or any science subject if they are interested and willing to work hard. I also faced discouragement the time I was teaching in secondary school and decided to go back to the University of Malawi for another year of mathematics honours programme. I was discouraged by colleagues, friends and some family because they believed I had already achieved enough for a girl and didn’t need more to earn a relatively good living. Looking back, I am very happy that I was strong and continued my studies because my life would not have been the same without the education I have acquired.

I return to my educational path:  my employment in the University of Malawi (from January 1991) as an assistant lecturer in Mathematics Education was challenging but also very inspiring. In September 1991, I was awarded a British Council scholarship to study towards a master’s degree in the United Kingdom. I was accepted at the University of Leeds and had the privilege of studying there. I returned to Malawi in September 1993 and was promoted to the position of lecturer in mathematics education. My duties were mostly teaching mathematics and mathematics education to undergraduate students.

In 1999, I was awarded a commonwealth scholarship to study towards a doctoral degree in the United Kingdom, as before at the University of Leeds.  On completion I returned to Malawi in October 2002 and resumed my duties as lecturer in mathematics education. In 2004, I was awarded a post-doctoral research fellowship at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.  I worked on my post doctoral research from April 2004 to November 2005.  I then came back to Malawi again to resume my duties as lecturer in mathematics education, and I was made deputy dean of the faculty of education. In 2006 I was promoted to the position of senior lecturer, which is my current position. And as I mentioned earlier, I was appointed to be the dean of the faculty of education from January 2009. This is the first time since the University of Malawi started in 1965 that the faculty of education has a female Dean.

Studying abroad has educated me in many ways beyond the mathematics education I pursued. I met many other women from all over the world studying and this was encouragement enough to keep me going. I learnt about academic life and being an academic. I also learnt about different cultures, different life styles and that there is a big wide world that I don’t know about. 

In Malawi, my education has benefited the University of Malawi and the nation in general. For eight years I was the coordinator for the Malawi national mathematics Olympiad for secondary schools. This mathematics competition was very motivating to many students in schools and during this time I realized that I was a role model to many girls in the schools. I continue to be a role model to girls in my extended family, my home area and other communities. Furthermore, I have participated in projects which aim at encouraging girls to be in school and remain in school and also encouraging girls to study mathematics and science without being discouraged by others. For example, I was the first national coordinator for the Female Education in Mathematics and Science in Africa (FEMSA) project for Malawi, this project included a number of African countries. I am now the coordinator for project SUSTAIN for Malawi whose objectives include to teach science for sustainable development and also to address gender issues in mathematics and science education. I am also a board member of the African Forum for Children’s Literacy in Science and Technology (AFCLIST). In addition to these I have membership to professional associations both at regional (southern Africa) and international level.

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Dorothy Nampota

24 November, 2009

Dorothy Nampota

‘My mother started to brew beer in order to find money for my school fees.

I was born on 27th January, 1967 and grew up in a small village. When I got selected to secondary school in 1982, my mother started to brew beer in order to find money for my school fees. Fortunately the school was within my area (about 25 km) and it was a boarding school. This meant that my mother could bring food such as green maize, groundnuts etc for me regularly as I did not have money to buy food from tuck-shops and the market. I was an almost invisible person in the school except when it came to performance in class.

 I got selected to the University of Malawi in 1986, the first girl in my village and community. People in my village were concerned that with the prolonged education I would not get married. However in the University I performed very well to the extent that for two years I was given a scholarship by USAID on ‘girls in non-traditional subjects’ as I was taking chemistry, mathematics and biology. I graduated with a credit in 1991 and taught at a school for one term that year before joining the university again now as assistant lecturer in science education in January, 1992. Later that year I got married and have two children. In 1995 I got a British Council TCT award which I used to study for my Masters degree at Kings College, University of London. When I returned home in 1997, my work was largely training science teachers. In September 2002 I was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to pursue a PhD at the University of Bath where I graduated in July, 2005.

 Human capital theorists believe that education can uplift someone from poverty. I am one person who could testify to this. Although coming from a poor background, I now belong to the elite of the society. As a result of my ‘prolonged’ education I have made some notable contributions to the society. In general, I act as a role model not only in my village and surrounding community but also nationally. For example, between 2000 and 2002, I was a national coordinator of a pan-African project that aimed at improving the participation and performance of girls in science and mathematics at both primary and secondary school levels. This brought me into contact with many girls, their parents and teachers in the country. From 2005 to-date, I am involved in a project that aims at meeting the learning needs of out of school children and youth through non-formal means. With funding from the British Academy I work in collaboration with colleagues from Universities of Glasgow, Calabar in Nigeria, Botswana and Lesotho in this activity. In May 2006, I was awarded a two and a half months DAAD fellowship on University Staff Development. In July, 2007, I was promoted to senior lecturer.

 My contributions to the education sector include undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and supervision of research. Through postgraduate teaching, I became a member of a NUFU funded project known as SUSTAIN (Education for sustainable development) which involves universities in South Africa and Zambia. I am also a member of professional bodies such as the Southern African Association for Research in Science and Mathematics Education and the British Association for International and Comparative Education.

 Within the University of Malawi, I have taken up a number of positions and responsibilities including membership of different committees such as University Senate, University Teaching and Learning, Research and Publications. I am currently head of the Department of Curriculum and Teaching Studies in the Faculty of Education.