The last two days have been extremely productive and great learning experience. My mentor, Professor Amy Stambach from the University of Oxford visited us in Moshi. The purpose of Amy’s visit was to encourage and explain to people ways through which they could apply for graduate studies at the University of Oxford as well as general advice on graduate school. Helping people to reach their education potential has always been Amy’s mission. She believes that everyone has a right to access quality education. Amy is an authority on education. She has a significant number of publications on education in particular comparative and international education.
Although Amy’s trip to Tanzania was a short one (only 48 hrs), she did an amazing job. In hindsight, she challenged my work-ethics/discipline and made me even more aware of time management. She did an enormous job in those two days.
The same morning that she arrived, Amy went to Nkwasangare Primary School. She spent time with the teachers and encouraged them to pursue further studies. She then spoke to pupils and told them to study hard. Amy has been supporting Nkwasangare. She has the school in her heart.
Following that, Amy went to SMMUCO (Stefan Moshi Memorial University College) in Kibosho. She met the provost, Prof. Arnold Temu, and members of faculty. She spent 3 or 4 hrs at the Campus discussing different opportunities for faculties and the University in general. She encouraged faculty members as well as students to apply for graduate studies.
The next day, Amy visited Msufini Secondary School in Machame. She taught in this school in 1991/92 when she was doing her PhD research. She was happy to see students studying in a much better environment than how it was 22 years ago. Amy spoke to teachers and head teacher. In the afternoon, Amy continued to meet administration and faculty members of SMMUCO discussing the same matters and explaining graduate school application procedures. She wishes to see many Tanzanians pursuing postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford.
What I learnt from Amy is her positive world-view. Amy is not only an intellectual but she is a genius. She has ability of explaining complex things in a simple way that everyone can understand. It is amazing how she can strike a conversation with people of different education levels and get along with them all.
Personally, I was lucky to spend substantial amount of time with Amy in those two days. She woke up early to read my ongoing academic works and gave me critical and challenging feedback. This was so precious. Since I came back to Tanzania the only thing I hear about my writings is ‘perfect’ ‘very well argued’ ‘very well written’ etc. Amy was also positive with my works but she was also honest with what I need to do for further improvements. I am not saying that other people are not honest in their feedback to my work, but I am glad that she saw more rooms for improvements. She explained in details every feedback she had on my works. I was reminded of my PhD research and I missed vibrant and competitive academic life. I love speaking to Amy because she challenges my thinking and allows me to think further.
One phrase from Amy that stroke me and made a u-turn in my academic self-esteem is, ‘don’t disqualify yourself! ’. Often times I have taken a step back from embarking on certain academic projects or grant application on the assumption that I might not qualify. Thus, having an opportunity of a University of Oxford Distinguished Professor reading my work, critiquing it, and then telling me not to disqualify myself is a critical juncture to my professional development. I am henceforth motivated to work harder on the basis that the sky is the limit.
In pondering more about the phrase ‘don’t disqualify yourself’, I realized that it could summarize Amy’s mission. Many people would be scared to apply to top universities such as the University of Oxford, but Amy encouraged everyone to apply. She trusts that everyone can make it.
So ‘don’t disqualify yourself, work hard and try’!