THE GENESIS

It was mid-2021, still struggling with my MSc dissertation after the whole covid lockdown and financial challenges were raging, when my supervisor sent me the application link for the Pan African Planetary and Space Science Network (PAPSSN) mobility scholarship call. This is a program that is funded by the Intra-Africa Mobility Scheme with the European Commission of the European Union as sponsors. At first, I was reluctant to apply because of my previous experience with other scholarships. I applied and they never called or emailed me to date, so I felt this was another intra-mobility scheme and it wouldn’t go anywhere. To make matters worse, my MSc results were not ready but something kept telling me to apply. I summoned the courage to start the application process, little did I know that I would be awarded the scholarship. It was tough as my application was reverted initially due to incomplete documents. As God would have it the application deadline was extended two weeks. Thanks to the project management, they were very friendly so I was encouraged to push through and my MSc results were ready just on time, lucky me!
It was September 12th 2021 when I received the good news while at home preparing my lessons for the new academic session which was to begin on 20th September 2021. My phone suddenly beeped and this was an email notification that had just came in from PAPSSN. I was terrified initially having received so many rejections over the years, but this time, it was gratifying to see “congratulations”. When I saw the nomination letter, I felt like my spirit left my body because this was the first Ph.D. application I have submitted, and have not even been convocated yet. At first, I couldn’t come to terms with this reality till I communicated with the committee and it was real. I really felt fulfilled. Thanks to PAPSSN for this opportunity.

THE GOOD NEWS

It was September 12th 2021 when I received the good news while at home preparing my lessons for the new academic session which was to begin on 20th September 2021. My phone suddenly beeped and this was an email notification that had just came in from PAPSSN. I was terrified initially having received so many rejections over the years, but this time, it was gratifying to see “congratulations”. When I saw the nomination letter, I felt like my spirit left my body because this was the first Ph.D. application I have submitted, and have not even been convocated yet. At first, I couldn’t come to terms with this reality till I communicated with the committee and it was real. I really felt fulfilled. Thanks to PAPSSN for this opportunity.

PREPARATION FOR MY STUDY TRIP


The Covid-19 heat was still rising and tension are everywhere. My travel documents were out of place and time was running so fast. PCR test was mandatory to travel so the heat was just too much. But with all these challenges, I managed to pull through. Honestly, the coordinators were so friendly and prompt. All information needed for the trip was provided by them in a calm and lovely manner. This made me relax even after we had rescheduled my flight twice. At last, the D-Day came and I was leaving the borders of Nigeria. Tension set in as this was my first time flying out of Nigeria. I started to have hallucinations and wondered what the other world would look like. Eventually, after a series of waiting, checking in, we took off. It was a long flight as we had to make two stops at Kigali airport and Johannesburg airport. Finally, we arrive at the new Ndola International Airport in Zambia. A great sense of relief came over me when I behold the green vegetations of Zambia. Then I realized the journey had just begun.

MY EXPERIENCE IN ZAMBIA SO FAR.


My first encounter with a Zambian was at Ndola International Airport where I realized one of my bags was missing. I made a complaint to the Airport baggage control official on duty and he was so kind to take my complaint and assured me the bag will be recovered. He also told me to call some numbers which he wrote on the complaint form for follow-up. I felt so at home and relax the way he related to me. This gave me a sense of peace that Zambians were hospitable.

A Snap shot at the Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport Ndola

By the time I was out of the airport, the University through my host had sent a special transport to pick me up. I felt really good as I finally started to relax after such a long trip. The car took me straight to an apartment already arranged for me at the Copperbelt University School of Graduate studies Complex. The environment was calm and serene, located in the best township in Kitwe.   Just there and then I met my host Dr. Prospery Simpemba who I have been communicating with all along.  He welcomed me warmly and took me to my room.

Me and my Host Dr. Prospery Simpemba at the entrance of the CBU

The Next day, I was introduced to the offices and directors within the graduate school. My host also showed their computer lab which was equipped with 24/7 power and internet. He later took me to the bank to get my settling in allowance.

Later within the week, I was assigned my workspace with a PC to work with temporality while the arrangement is ongoing for my Research tools. As a Ph.D. student here at CBU, Offices are assigned specially with workspace for different Ph.D. students. This fosters growth and intellectual conversation with fellow Ph.D. students.

A week after my settlement, my co-supervisor Dr. Joseph Simfukwe, a very friendly, sincere, and God-fearing man and also the current Head of the Physics Department here at CBU invited me for a very warm and welcoming Sunday service. It was a refreshing experience.

MY RESEARCH WORK SO FAR…

After I settled and all challenges had been tackled, I was assigned some tasks almost immediately. My co-supervisor, Prof Golden, created a Google Class where all our work progress can be monitored and shared so the team can follow accordingly. So far so good it has been a wonderful experience. I am currently doing an extensive literature review as well as preparing for my first proposal presentation to the department for approval.

CLOSING REMARKS


Firstly, I want to thank the Pan African Planetary and Space Science Network (PAPSSN) for the Ph.D. degree-seeking program and for according me this wonderful opportunity. This is a program that is funded by the Intra-Africa Mobility Scheme with the European Commission of the European Union as sponsors. Your scheme has given many talented and brilliant Africans hope. Well-done!

Most importantly, my deep and sincere gratitude goes to the project coordinator Prof. Fulvio Franchi, the project Manager Mrs. Chakandinakira Gadibotsile and the entire selection committee for their fair and honest selection which has made me a beneficiary of the PAPSSN project. Furthermore, my sincere gratitude goes to my supervisor Prof Golden Nyambuya, Co-Supervisor Dr. Joseph Simfukwe, and my host Dr. Prospery Simpemba.  It has been a pleasure working with you so far and I am optimistic that as our work proceeds, we will have much better days to come. Your love, care, and swift response to my demands are unprecedented.

Lastly but not least, I thank the Management of the Copperbelt University: the Vice-Chancellor, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Registrar, the Deputy Registrar Academics, the Dean of the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, the University finance unit and my family, friends and loved once for their support and prompt responses to my demands. I am deeply grateful to you all. God bless you abundantly.

Few months ago things weren’t as I planned… I was feeling like putting my studies on hold, because of financial constraints for my research. And then…, Boom!!! the PAPSSN Masters Crediting seeking mobility scholarship appeared with a three-day application deadline remaining. But let me start from the beginning…

My names are Mazuba M Kumwenda from Zambia. I am a student at The Copperbelt University (CBU) in Kitwe doing MSc Physics (Cosmology). I started my MSc program on a self-sponsorship basis in August 2020. Throughout the years, I had financial challenges not knowing how to pay my tuition fees. But motivation and passion were driving me. I never gave up. Around July 2021 I wrote the exams in which I hard exceptional results.

Looking backward there were hardship and sacrifice. The main challenge ahead was now to finance my research project, which at that particular moment I could not manage. I don’t have to be the one telling you how hard is to source funds for graduate research in Africa.

And with this we arrive at the 3-day deadline…

While I was looking for funds to pay for my research project with the help of my supervisor Dr. Simpemba P (from home institution CBU), I came across the PanAfrican Planetary and Space Science Network (PAPSSN) masters credit seeking program. A mobility project which is funded by the Intra-Africa Mobility Scheme of the Education Audio-visual and Culture Executive Agency of the European Commission of the European Union. With only three days remaining before the application due date, I applied at Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) to do research in Cosmology, with a little hope of being picked as the application clearly started that only one candidate would be selected for the position from Zambia. I poured my soul in that application, I knew I did my best to shine as an MSc student, but sometimes that isn’t enough.

Few months later, I received an email about my application having been successful. Filled with joy and happiness I immediately started preparing all the necessary documents for travelling (not easy in this pandemic era). Since the scholarship is fully funded, they provided for insurance tuition fees, and the return air tickets. I was supposed to travel on 2nd November 2021.

I must say this was a wonderful experience to me as it was my first time ever to board on a plane. I arrived in Gaborone the same day in the evening. The following morning, I was driven to Palapye (where BIUST is located) where I met with the project coordinator Prof. Fulvio Franchi, my supervisor Dr. Adams Duniya (from host institution BIUST) and other Staff members.

I was given a familiarization tour by one of the postgrad students (thank you Karabo!) around BIUST campus a splendid newly built campus with cutting-edge facilities. Within a few weeks I was able to adapt to the change of environment. With the help from the staff at BIUST I was able to register as a student and then right away started working on my project.

I have been fortunate enough to get all the exposure and experience through this same project, in this regard I would like to thank all the people who are behind this mobility project and I wish they continue to reach-out to many more students in this manner.