Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Why youth need to take up careers in science field


By Esther Kibakaya

Dr. Lwidiko Edward Mhamilawa, is a Medical Doctor and co-founder of ProjeKt Inspire – a social enterprise that focuses on career guidance and inspiration for young adults and children, with a niche in STEM careers, (Science Technology Engineering and Math). He also has 5 years of experience working with young people in rural areas of Tanzania and all over the globe.

Born 29 years ago, he pursued his first degree at Muhimbili University of Health and allied Science, and graduated in 2013 as a Medical Doctor. After working in clinical practice since 2013, he then joined Muhimbili University at the department of parasitology and medical entomology as a tutorial assistant and later on went to pursue Medical Research PhD Studies in infectious diseases with a focus on malaria at Uppsala University – Sweden.

His passion for social change saw him co –founding Projekt Inspire back in 2014. “For the past three years we decided to focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education and innovation from pre-primary, primary and secondary school students,” he says.

Explaining what attracted him to engage himself with this initiative, Dr. Lwidiko says this was highly influenced by his own background with privileges and deprivations that he experienced as he went through the education system in Tanzania, “I am lucky enough to have experienced both public and private schooling and there are generalised sentiments that those of us who managed to get to the top can attest to,” he explains

He went further saying the way we are taught science in school does not necessarily attract innovation and critical thinking. “The educational approaches are not at par with the changing technology and young innovators don’t get opportunities to be discovered and encouraged to continue. Even if they do, there is no adequate practical support they get to progress, they need hand holding to truly become their full potential,” he says.

He therefore says what he does is basically what he wishes would have been done to the younger version of him, who could have turned out to be a better scientist than what he today is provided he had someone to hold his hand,” say the scientist.

Explaining if there has been a defining moment in his life that made him decide to take the direction in life that he did, Lwidiko says it was during his A levels at Kibaha, that his love for science emerged, “I have been a multi potentiality through most of my life but my interest in becoming a scientist became cemented with time.”

“I grew up in a family where my father has a doctorate in electronics, and teaching at the University of Dar es salaam in physics department for more than 30 years, my elder brother and sister are Civil engineers doing well in life. I guess it has been in our nature to have passion with science. When it was my chance to choose a career path after I completed my A Level, science seemed to be the best options,” the doctor says.

While each and every one of us had their goals while growing up, for Dr.Lwidiko his goal in life has always been to be a better version of himself, this includes but is not limited to his involvement in extracurricular activities which got him to became a National Chairperson of Youth of United Nations Association of Tanzania and also the Curator of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers Hub for Dar es salaam.

He says his parents have been instrumental in pushing him into being a better version of himself on a daily basis, “my mother has constantly been reminding me that I used to say I wanted to be a doctor, this has been a guiding light in my career path, and soon to be wife has been an encouragement and a motivator through this profession,” he says.

Earlier this year Dr. Lwidiko was nominated as a Next Einstein Ambassador for Tanzania. According to him it has been a mind blowing experience. He says it was a whole new level when it comes to associating with the best and brightest that Africa has in the STEM field.

“We are on the right track as a continent; however, I was very disappointed to see that as a country we did not have even a single scientist who was presenting the great researches being done in Tanzania. Being a part of this platform of more than 2000 global key players and scientists is something that will increase the visibility of our scientists on global platforms,” he says, adding;

“Apart from the Global gathering, we also get to organise the Africa Science Week once a year as ambassadors. This year we are preparing a bigger Africa Science Week platform in September. It will have involvement of different stakeholders.”

Despite all the achievement we as a country have so far managed to achieve in this field, still there are a number of challenges facing developing countries when it comes to science. Dr. Lwidiko highlighted that most fundings in higher education research in Tanzania to a great extent have been funded by donor countries; a minimum amount is from the Government. “This in itself limits the flexibility of setting research agenda that is a priority for our countries. This limits the innovation potential that we can explore,” he noted.

He went further saying there has been a missing link since our education system doesn’t produce the necessary skills needed to develop cutting edge science institutions that are available in developed nations. Moreover the research done by students pursuing masters and PhD remain on papers to a great extent.

“Such researches need to be implemented. Also, the manufacturing industries that can use basic scientists are not enough in most developing countries, hence you find that the drivers of innovation in science are insufficient,” he notes.

He says a lot needs to be done around the world to help youth, especially women and girls establish careers in science despite the fact that situations around the world do differ.