My research got me into a USAID funded Project

Aliet Mmbone Ugada is Kenyan student studying MSc Food Security and Community Nutrition at Gulu University with support from Mastercard Foundation through RUFORUM. She shares her journey and transformation thus far, from the two weeks orientation in Egerton University in Kenya, the change and adjustments in Uganda and the cultural shock that came with it and the research that got her in cooperated into a USAID funded project.

Aliet Mmbone Ugada

My parents and other seniors in the community had instilled in me the mindset that I should study to get a good job. This improper ideology exist among many Africans, especially those coming from humble backgrounds in which am not an exception. Well, I must say it is really fulfilling to get that well-paying job. It is actually a dream of every student and it applies to me to date. However, I believe education is not all about that. The danger of this perception is that the learner’s mind is confined in only one direction and a great disappointment lurks in the uncertainty of being employed in a high paying job. Notably, my 8-4-4 journey of academia was crowned with a first class honors for my undergraduate study in the year 2015. At this point, I knew I had acquired all it took to get employed in ‘well-paying job’. Surprisingly, the tough reality came in when I discovered that jobs were hard to come by even when one had all the qualifications. I moved from one place to another dropping applications and attending interviews that were unfruitful. I must say it was really discouraging especially when I looked at the sorrow state of family that banked their hope on me. Besides searching for employment, I was also passionate about advancing my studies to the next level of Masters Degree.

Therefore I spent quite good time searching and applying for scholarship opportunities all over the world. I would walk to town (a distance of 2km) just to get into a cyber cafe and make one or two applications. One constraint I faced here was limited finances, since the processes of scholarship application are in most cases detailed and require ample time, yet I only had  a few coins that would sustain me only for about 30 minutes or so in a cyber café . Despite all these challenges, I kept on pressing hard with the faith that one day my door would open, and boom, I saw the Mastercard Scholarship advert through RUFORUM. I must say this was one of its kind. The application procedure had been simplified and made clear hence convenient for what I could afford. To me, the process must have been so transparent because I simply applied by completing the forms and submitted. The was due diligence doen by RUFORUM and which ended with me getting the prestigious scholarship to study Masters of Science in Food Security and Community Nutrition at Gulu University.

My Transformation

Transformation began with the two weeks’ training we had at Egerton University, Kenya. Notably, the aspects that brought a paradigm shift in my life was the issue of leadership, and entrepreneurship. As for the former, my skills were refined as a leader and I got to understand how to handle different personalities as a leader based, on the principle of emotional intelligence. I had been a good leader before but after that training, I became better. On the other hand, the eye opener on entrepreneurship made me look at education in a different perspective. I learned how to start a business in a simple way and grow it to the level I that I wanted. I have understood how I can use my intellectual advantage to position myself properly in the competitive market. Initially, I thought I needed large sums of money to start a business, but this mentality changed during the training. Additionally, I learned the discipline of saving upon which I have remained faithful. Lastly, I was enlightened on how to prepare for starting a business and the risks thereof. Currently, I am almost done with the preparation and my business will be kicking off in a month’s time. Thanks to RUFORUM for the stipend accorded to me.

As soon as I arrived at Gulu University, I began a new chapter of life. First, adjusting to the new environment was quite a task.  The change in climate (very hot), new currency, new friends and new cuisines, among other things really had a say on my way of doing things.  I remember my first shopping, I had to give all my money to my Kenyan sister who has been studying here to do the purchases. For instance I was surprised when I was told 1kg of tomatoes was UGX 2000.I mean I was still having the Kenyan Currency in mind. But with time I learned the right consumer behavior that is sustaining me to date. I also made Acholi friends and also other international friends who have been really helpful in may stay here in Uganda so far. I really cherish these friendships. I must confess the issue of cuisines is still a challenge but am adjusting gradually. I am still adapting to eating with folk rather than spoon (Kenyan style), pasted food, and the highly refined maize flour for ‘ugali’.Actually, I thought there would not be any difference in these things since Kenya and Uganda are sister countries but trust there is a difference.

Class experience

The class experience is one unique one. As I was still reflecting on the leadership I have stated above, the class appointed me as their coordinator and that was  when I started implementing the skills I had acquired in the training. Handling a master’s class with all the dynamics associated with postgraduate learners is indeed a good lesson. It is fulfilling to see them appreciate my leadership and services to them. Notably, the lecturers are very friendly and supportive. I had never seen Professors who are down to earth like the ones at Gulu University. They teach with love and care. I see in them a calling more than a profession. An observer will notice their desire to mold all round professionals that will fit into the dynamic society today. I am so glad that I landed in their hands together with the rest of Gulu University staff. So far academically am progressing well. The last semester I got a score of 4.89 out of 5.0 grade points. I give all the glory to almighty God, my creator.

One outstanding achievement I got last semester was winning a chance to be incorporated in  USAID’s project for my research entitled ‘Development of Micronutrient-Dense Composite Flour for Improving Commonly Used Complementary Foods for Children aged 6-24 Months in Karamoja’. This was a highly competitive race that encompassed graduate applicants from all Universities of Uganda. Through the support of RUFORUM and my lectures and above all the hand of God I emerged  one of the three winners. I would never have realized such an opportunity without the MasterCard scholarship. I am forever grateful for this.

Lastly, the welfare of my family is really getting better. I have managed to take my nephew to secondary school, spending over 700 USD for his study requirements. More so, I am servicing the government loan that financed my undergraduate studies. This debt had robbed me of my peace since the interests had accrued and the loans board had threatened my guarantors and my parents so badly. From 2000 US dollars, the debt is now at 1500 US dollars and  I am so determined to clear it fully. I truly owe Mastercard and RUFORUM endless gratitude because they have made me break both career and economic barriers that had engulfed me for so long. I choose to remain focused and strive for the best in every area of my life. Shalom.

To find out more about the project, you can reach out to Aliet Mmbone


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