It might be an easy task for a 45 year-old to graduate with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Kenya but for a 28-year-old girl with a background matching that of Dr Purity Ngina, it is a seemingly insurmountable feat. Dr Ngina, born and bred in Mbiriri Village, Kieni East in Nyeri walked the path and and was weeks ago presented by Strathmore University as one of the youngest PhD holders in Kenya. She talks to the Hashtag about her journey and how one can use second chances to change their lives forever.
Congratulations on your triumph Dr. Purity, it must have been very exciting to record such an achievement especially in Kenya where most people attain their PhD at the age of 50 years and above. What was your education journey like?
My journey has been a myriad of challenges but there has always been light at the end of the tunnel. The most challenging part of life was achieving primary and high school education. Starting school with no shoes let alone school fees, it was a hustle meeting basic needs. University was smoother since I managed to get a student loan from HELB. To augment the loan, we called Harambee whose proceeds cushioned me. These challenges have actually been the reason I have worked hard. I hated the type of life we were leading. Poverty, it is said, can be dehumanising. Not being sure of where your next meal will come from is not a desirable scenario. I was conscious, from a very young age, of mu reality. When I went to High School, thus, I was determined to attain a grade that would allow me into the University. Education, I knew, would be the only path that would give me a fair shot at life. All that was asked of me was a listening ear, a keen eye and a disciplined character.
Perhaps the most motivating part of your journey is that you went to a public school with limited resources, attained 235 out of 500 marks in KCPE, but somewhat managed end up at Strathmore University. How did your fortune around?
It is not as hard as people might look at it, I actually depends on you as a person. You must be motivated by something or someone. In my case, education was my only route to success. I still believe in this line although people think otherwise. Education is the answer to all the problems we go through, name them gender, inequality, poverty, climate change, deaths and illness, insecurity and for this reason I had a vision and a mission to be successful. At the University, I was deeply focused on my studies. Again, I was not distracted by other activities and was thus able to give my best shot. When I acquired my First Class Honors in Bed. Mathematics and Chemistry from Egerton University, it was fate patting me on the back for my hard work and. Egerton University offered me a Scholarship to study for my Masters Degree, which I did before moving to Strathmore for my PhD.
You seem to be passionate when speaking about how Mathematics can be used to fight the HIV and AIDS menace…
When I joined Strathmore I was introduced to epidemiological modelling by my supervisors. After analysing all the infectious disease models I settled on HIV for few a reasons. One reason is that I have known people who have actually died of HIV related diseases and aware of family and friends who are infected. HIV is pandemic has been with us for over three decades. A lot of research has been carried for the development of HAART, in improvement of punitive care. All this has been very costly on the global economy. While appreciate and acknowledge the effort by the various stake holders, more so the Government, I feel us we as people in our various capacity have a contribution to make in this fight. This, is my modest contribution in the campaign against this global scourge that threatens the human race.
What should we, in you view, do as a country in order to restore the faith of the youth in education in the face of widespread employment?
First of all, unemployment has become a challenge facing the whole World. Many people, today, find themselves jobless. Technology, for instance, has seen significant numbers of job cuts in those mundane tasks that can be done more efficiently with machines. Globalisation too, means that jobs that were previously done by the people in a certain locale, can be outsourced at cheaper rates from other parts of the world. To manage this problem, I propose that youth embrace STEM Courses in tertiary institutions, we need more young people joining technical institutions for their tertiary education, and youth embrace the opportunities that present themselves to them by innovating solutions to the problems we face daily.
What are you doing to draw more youth to STEM courses?
I am in the process of registering Lydia Ngina foundation in memory of my late mother who was a pillar in my journey. One of the objectives is to visit as many schools as possible and talk to young boys and girls with the aim of demystifying STEM courses.
Your word of encouragement to those looking at you as their role model but are almost giving up due to the challenges they face in Universities?
Keep the faith and keep working toward your goals even when you face a myriad of challenges. It is usually darkest before dawn, and what may appear insurmountable today can be achieved. You must, however, embrace hard work. If you just dream on without putting in the effort, then you are doomed. Success must be earned as much as it is desired. To you reading this, I say to you, the world needs your skill and cheer if it is to solve its challenges. Join the band wagon of us all who are desirous of a better life for all humanity and working towards achieving this. In whatever little effort you make, give it your best, and you will definitely get your reward.