This week Gerald Kitabu interviewed Kimberly Mihayo, a former student of Mzizima Secondary School in Dar es Salaam who has gained entrance at the world’s most prestigious Harvard University in the United States. Excerpts:
QUESTION: How did you gain entrance to Harvard University?
Answer: I applied to a few universities in the US, which included Harvard University, through a non-governmental organization called TanSAO (Tanzania Student Achievement Organisation) that assists students in securing admissions and scholarships in various universities worldwide. The application was not easy -- it required a lot of self-will to deal with both school and university applications. But, with the help of TanSAO, and the support from my school and family, everything went well.
Q: How did you get to know TanSAO?
A: I learnt about TanSAO through one of the teachers in one of the schools I was studying in Dar es Salaam. The Director of Counselling at TanSAO also happened to be the college counselor at the school, for a brief period earlier this year.
Q: What is your educational background?
A: I am the last born in a family of seven children. My father is a retired judge of the High Court of Tanzania and my mother is an English teacher at Mbuyuni Primary School. I received my primary school education at the Aga Khan Primary School and thereafter I did the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE Programme) at the Aga Khan Mzizima Secondary School. I then joined the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB Diploma Programme), an equivalent of two years of A-level) at the Aga Khan Mzizima Secondary School, where I recently graduated.
Q: Which course are you going to pursue at Havard?
A: I want to major in health science and eventually join the field of Public Health/ Health Policy. In recent years there have been a few incidents where inspections uncovered pseudo health centres that had been operating illegally, including hiring untrained medical personnel and using substandard facilities.
To ensure that such cases do not occur, there needs to be a more centralised control and regular inspection of the registered health care providers in the country -- from major hospitals (which receive adequate attention) to dispensaries and health centres in rural areas.Through this way, we will know that people are receiving quality health care with trained personnel and facilities that meet desirable standards.
Q: Why did you choose Harvard and not any other university?
A: Harvard presented me with an invaluable opportunity for a higher education and offered me a generous scholarship. As one of the best universities in the world, I know that I will receive the best training for the course I want to take.
Q: How do you advise fellow students who want to study abroad?
A: Many foreign universities, such as Harvard, provide scholarships to students on the basis of their overall academic performance from primary and secondary schools and their involvement in extracurricular activities. Students should aspire to take part in activities outside the school curriculum -- such as sports, community service, arts, as well as performing well in their studies.
Q: How did you feel after securing a place at Havard?
A: I was so surprised. I never thought I could be admitted to such a prestigious university, so I was just overjoyed.
Q: How did Mzizima Secondary School support your studies?
A: Mzizima Secondary School provided me with an invaluable support and guidance in both my academic pursuits and university applications. I am thankful for the many years of primary and secondary education that I have received through the Aga Khan Foundation, and it is because of this institution that I was able to access opportunities abroad.
Q: Any future expectations?
A: I hope that after my university education I will be well-equipped to contribute to the development of my country -- Tanzania.