In Summary
  • She left Kenyatta University in 1998 to seek greener pastures at the University of Botswana, and later at the University of KwaZulu Natal in 2006 and University of Johannesburg in 2011.

  • And last month, Prof Ngila was one of Africa’s top five female scientists who were each awarded $20,000 (Sh2 million) for excelling in science research, by the African Union in partnership with the European Union, who have sponsored the event since 2008.

For the last 19 years, Prof Jane Catherine Ngila has been living abroad doing what she loves most – teaching and research. Ending up in a foreign land and settling there for all those years was a deliberate choice and she has no regrets.

She left Kenyatta University in 1998 to seek greener pastures at the University of Botswana, and later at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and University of Johannesburg, both in South Africa, in 2006 and in 2011, respectively.

And last month, Prof Ngila was one of Africa’s top five female scientists who were each awarded $20,000 (Sh2 million) for excelling in science research, by the African Union in partnership with the European Union, who have sponsored the event since 2008.

Getting the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Science Regional Award on January 24, 2017 following her winning the 2016 South Africa’s Women in Science Awards, she says, was “the cherry on the cake”.

The much acclaimed award by the African Union is named after Ghana’s first President and Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah.

The objective of the programme is to recognise top African scientists for their achievements and valuable discoveries and findings.

In the award ceremony held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Prof Ngila was recognised as the East African region laureate for her research in Analytical-Environmental Chemistry focusing on water resource management.

The achievement would have been unimaginable when she was growing up in a large family in the semi-arid Ithiani village in Kitui County.

'HARSH CONDITIONS'

“I lived under harsh conditions while attending primary and secondary schools,” she recalls.

Together with her brothers and sisters, they used to trek for long distances to fetch water, sometimes very early in the morning before going to school. On other days, they would have to till the land early in the morning before heading to primary school. After school, she and her siblings would go home running to fetch firewood and graze cattle.

“This was my lowest moment in life. It was due to these hardships that I decided to work hard in school, to change this lifestyle,” she says.

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