By By Aisha Amidu
Her love for science subjects begun when she was in Form 2 at Mwanza Secondary School where most of other girls shunned the sciences.
“I wanted to be different,” says Eneless Rasheedah Nsamila who has lived her dream to be among a few female scientists in the country.
She is the only female student who has graduated with a distinction from Ndata School of Climate and Earth Sciences of the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST).
“While in secondary school, I realised that many girls could not score highly in science subjects because they had mentality of dealing with simple things and not taking challenges,” Nsamila says.
So she wanted to be the odd one out and, consequently, developed keen interest in the sciences.
“This is what inspired me most as I wanted to score better than boys who were always on top by then,” she says.
Upon writing Malawi School Certificate of Education, Nsamila had good grades in science subjects and this motivated her to apply for enrolment at MUST.
Fortunately, she was selected to study Earth Science at the Ndata School of Climate and Earth Sciences.
One of her final year lecturers Ellasy Gulule Chimimba says Nsamila’s name was all over MUST since she joined the university because of her consistent outstanding performance from lower classes up to when she graduated.
She says Nsamila’s good behaviour also contributed to her good grades because her name never entered the school authorities’ black books throughout her stay at the university.
Now, Nsamila says science is part of her life as she wants to fill the gap of female geologists in Malawi.
“I want to fill the gap that is here in Malawi. There are few female geologists in the country and very few girls are currently studying earth science at Ndata School of Climate and Earth Sciences,” she says.
Coming from a poor family background, Nsamila’s success has been a function of hard work, determination and perseverance.
She relied on Campaign for Female education (Camfed) scholarship. Apart from tuition fees, Camfed also provided her with other resources including pocket money.
However, the money was not enough as she used part of it to support her family back home.
As a single-parent family, Nsamila felt obliged to be parting ways with a little something to help her mother and siblings back home.
But this generosity eventually made college life difficult for her especially in the final years.
“My sponsors did not manage to provide me with money for meals during my first semester in fourth year which affected my academic performance.
“I also did not finalise my research project in time because I had no money to use in field activities. So I had to rely on school transport which was not readily available,” Nsamila says.
Even though her road was thorny and bumpy, Nsamila emerged with a distinction in Earth Science during the first ever MUST’s congregation held on 5th November this year.
Another Nsamila’s lecturer Dr. Emanuel Vellemu says the world needs to push more females to go study science courses.
“Intelligent female students like Rasheedah need to study science and mathematics as they have been sidelined for ages,” he says.
He explains that it is for the same reason MUST came up with annual “Girls Camp” initiative that instills, inspires and motivates female students like Nsamila to study science courses.
“The beauty about Rasheedah is that she is hardworking and a goal-getter. She would meet her deadlines without extensions unlike other students; mentorship became easy as she begun seeing science modules relatively easy,” he says.
Nsamila would work on her research project during weekends both in the filled and laboratory as her supervisor was pressing her and fellow students hard for them to submit quality work.
Her research project was about hydro geology assessment of borehole water quality in Chifunga area in Neno District to determine salinity levels and establish spatial variation of major ions and general groundwater quality.
She found out that World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for calcium (200 mg/l), chloride (250 mg/l), electric conductivity (140µs/m), total dissolved solids (1000 mg/l), turbidity (5 NTU) and pH (6.5- 8.5) in drinking water exceeded by 25%, 0%, 75%, 75%, 100% and 0%, respectively, for all borehole water samples.
“High turbidity, Electrical Conductivity (EC) and total dissolved solids (TDS) in all the four boreholes render water in study area as brackish and unsuitable for drinking,” reads part of the study report.
The report further says the concentrations of analysed solutes are not wide in range suggesting that the hydrochemistry is controlled by few or one related process such as water-rock interaction.
“Based on the interpretation of the comparative analysis of variance for EC, it shows that there are no significant differences in salinity levels between the four boreholes.
“Results reported in this study provide baseline scientific data useful for designing monitoring programmes of groundwater in Malawi and beyond and it will render service to others exploring similar groundwater studies,” the report says.
Nsamila explains that she would spend most of her weekends in the laboratory analysing samples which made her to have extra time to work on the project.
Her research supervisor Dr Vellemu says the quality of Nsamila’s research findings “is quite good for her level; no wonder she passed with distinction.”
Meanwhile, the research paper is set for submission to international journals for publication.
Speaking when he presided over the first-ever congregation, President Arthur Peter Mutharika said MUST believes in championing new research and innovation in science and technology that empowers the nation to take control of its heritage of indigenous resources.
He told the graduating students to always work hard to achieve their dreams.
“Believe in yourself. Be different.You are going with skills to bring electricity and quality water to our homes in the villages,” said the Mutharika, who is the university’s Chancellor.-(Mana)