Q&A: Guiding the next generation of Rwandan scientists

Briefly tell us about yourself? My parents were the late Alexander Munyerango and Viviane Sharangabo. I am the seventh born in a family of four girls and six boys. I started my primary school in Gahini but I was forced to continue from Nyamata. Things were not easy for us there, for my family and other Rwandans we were forced into.
Dr Marie Christine Gasingirwa
Dr Marie Christine Gasingirwa

Briefly tell us about yourself?

My parents were the late Alexander Munyerango and Viviane Sharangabo. I am the seventh born in a family of four girls and six boys. I started my primary school in Gahini but I was forced to continue from Nyamata. Things were not easy for us there, for my family and other Rwandans we were forced into.

  I completed primary school in Burundi and started secondary school there as well. We later moved to Uganda where I continued my O’Level in Nyakasura and later in A’Levels Gayaza School, where I took mathematics as a subsidiary but majored in biology, chemistry and physics.

After completing high school I went to Kenya where I started teaching science. I didn’t have any other option because I was a refugee. While teaching at Kenya Science Teacher’s College I was given a scholarship and I received a Bachelor degree in Bio-chemistry and Zoology.

In 1994, I returned to Rwanda joining the Ministry of Education. Other than teaching science at the National University of Rwanda, I worked with the Ministry of Education where I took part in designing the national biology syllabus. I am among the founders of the National Examination Council.

At the end of 1998, I got a scholarship for my Masters degree in Texas in the US, and in 2003 I received another one  for my PhD in Belgium at Faculte Universte Notre Dame de la Paix where I studied physiological chemistry.

I returned in May 2009 and continued to be a lecturer at  the  National University of Rwanda. October the, same year I was appointed as the Director General for Science, Technology and Research in the Ministry Of Education.

What are some of your childhood dreams?

It is not easy to dream when you are a refugee. I had no choice in choosing teaching as a profession.

What are the major challenges you meet on a daily basis?

Helping people understand things the same way and at the same time is a major challenge. It is a matter of becoming patient, sensitising, training and reminding people what they are supposed to be doing. Many people, when they face a challenge, pour their anger on their subordinates. This may result into something that is not good for the company or organisation. They need to be able to swallow their anger.

Has the position you are holding made any impact in your life?

From October 2009 till mid December 2010, I was a ‘one man’ show. I learnt to take decisions and to prioritise issues because I had to work, attend meetings and conferences about science and technology and return to the office to prepare reports.
I learnt the advantage of working as a team when I got four other people to work with. I learnt to recognize and appreciate people’s contribution.

 What are the challenges Rwandan women face today?

Some women in Rwanda seem to lack confidence because I can’t say that they are not capable. They just need someone to polish their minds and they need fellow women, who went to school, to reach out to them and share their success stories with them. Everyone needs a role model.

How do you spend your leisure time?

These days my schedule is tight. When I get some free time I go for sports and on weekends I visit friends and relatives and go for church.  Every morning I do floor exercises for thirty minutes.

What are your future plans?

I am focusing on my current job. If I leave I may go back to my university job but mostly I am planning to put up a consultation firm that would deal with organic farming.

What message do you have for Rwandan women?

Successful women don’t reach their goals because they are geniuses but because they are determined to do so. Never be satisfied with small things. Ladies working in the same professional should develop forums where they can discuss issues.

In life there isn’t a single person that knows everything and there is no person that knows nothing. It’s not too late to learn because you just need to develop that interest, talk to people, share with them what you have and learn from them. There is no breakthrough in this world if you are isolated, you can only make a breakthrough by talking to people.

 

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