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Providing an educational springboard for agri-entrepreneurs
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Providing an educational springboard for agri-entrepreneurs

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Oct 21, 2021 at 08:44
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When Tanzanian student Mohamed Jumanne Manjale graduated with a certificate in general agriculture from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Tanzania, in 2012, he knew the milestone was just one of several he had to overcome before achieving his dream of attaining a university degree.

So, after further studies at the same college, he graduated in 2015 with a diploma in the same field.

This paved the way for him to set his sights on the ultimate goal of earning a degree in agriculture, a quest he was not ready to let go of.

However, he faced a major obstacle. He did not qualify for a government student loan, as only those joining universities directly from high school are eligible and he was what is referred to as a ‘continuing learner’.

As Manjale did odd jobs to survive, wondering how to raise money for his coveted degree, he met a friend who had won a scholarship for a masters degree in China, and who encouraged him to begin looking for similar opportunities.

“I applied for several bursaries until I succeeded in 2017 and won a four-year Mastercard – RUFORUM [Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture] scholarship to study towards a general agriculture degree at Egerton University in Kenya,” says the 31-year-old father of one.

This was, however, only one more of the many challenges he had to overcome as part of his journey towards a degree. Among others, he was older than many in his class, but the more serious obstacle was his limited exposure to English, the language of instruction at the institution.

Back home in Tanzania, he had been used to Swahili as the medium of instruction through most of his school life.

“Unlike now, I only knew a few English words [then] but I’m now well-versed in the language, since lectures and other activities are done in English,” he says.

Having overcome the critical language impediment to effective learning, he was looking forward to completing his four-year degree programme on time in 2021.

COVID-19 disruption

However, as fate would have it, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, disrupting learning at the university and practically every other aspect of life.

Stranded, with little to do at the college and with academic knowledge gathered over the years, Manjale decided to utilise space and resources available for agriculture student practicals to grow mushrooms, a crop that largely grows in the wild.

“In the second year of this programme, we engage in field attachment where we gain a lot of experience in different crops, field practice, and in pests and disease management. Due to this, I was already confident I could grow different crops and apply requisite agricultural science in general,” Manjale says.

He notes that he had also been exposed to basic research methods which had enabled him to excel in data collection and analysis using various data scrutiny software programmes. This built the confidence he needed to believe that the project would succeed.
Oct 21, 2021 at 08:44
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