This week we get closed up with the interim curator of the AIMS Alumni Chapter in Rwanda. He tells us his story of how he got into the mathematics space and is currently using his knowledge and skills in mathematics. Serving as a Government Program Monitoring Statistician at the National Institute of Statistics – Rwanda, Emmanuel Christian Nyabyenda describes how AIMS contributed to his career path and the role he currently handles at the NISR.
Q: Take us through your academic journey before AIMS
Christian: I have always loved to take courses that combine mathematics with other subjects. This desire has been my stand since I was in Lower Secondary. It contributed to my Upper Secondary studies, which comprised Mathematics, Physics and Geography. In 2011, I got admitted to the Nation University of Rwanda for my undergraduate studies in their Applied Mathematics Department.
During this period of undergraduate training, I got exposed to courses like Data Analysis, Optimal Control, Statistics and many others. The period was bitter-sweet for me because I had a francophone background, and doing all these courses in English wasn’t easy. However, the content of the classes was enjoyable and easily applicable. While at the university, I interned with several Health Centres in my district, where I applied my knowledge and skills to their data, especially in descriptive analysis.
In 2014, I completed my undergraduate studies and took up a teaching job before I joined AIMS in August 2016.
Q: How would you describe your experience at AIMS?
Christian: My first impression about AIMS was a well-organized academic environment. Then I met my coursemates, brilliant students from 10 African countries, with everyone speaking English. I was surprised to see lecturers start teaching on the very first day of class, which hardly happens anywhere in our traditional universities. It was at AIMS I had a 24-hour learning environment. Students only moved from the classroom to the lab, and the circle continued.
Latex and Mathematical Problem Solving were the first two courses we were introduced to, and I found it extremely difficult typing anything in latex for the whole of the first week. Then came later the R programming and Python languages, which I had only heard about at AIMS for the first time. I found AIMS as a place that helps young Africans to sharpen their skills in Mathematics and its applications. Another striking thing I cherished at AIMS was the approach to students’ thesis defence. Students don’t use slides; they use boards to tell a story from their written documents. This approach is how AIMS developed my critical thinking and writing experience.
At AIMS, I didn’t only learn technical skills but also had the opportunity to get soft skills from the various activities organized at the Centre. The Friday sports, Pan-African culture performances and other public engagement activities helped to build a strong relationship and partnership among students.
Q: From your shared experience, how would you say AIMS impacted you?
Christian: At AIMS Rwanda, I had the chance to taste-test different programmes and learn from experts in diverse fields, which helped me explore my new area of interest. Additionally, the society of different cultures helped enrich my skills through my interactions with them. I can boldly write and interpret programming languages now, which is an incredible impact from AIMS. Also, my communication skills improved remarkably due to my involvement in activities at the Centre.
Q: How are you using this impact to contribute to the attainment of the SDGs?
Christian: I align more with goal number 13 – Climate Action. If nothing is done about climate change, people will continue to die due to its many disasters. I am a farmer’s child and must find solutions for my parents. Most families in Africa belong to the agricultural sector, a sector that is mainly affected by these disasters. As a problem solver from AIMS, I am keen to conduct research based on actual African data. I believe that some technologies are required to reduce the impact of climate change in Africa, and I am confident that AIMS products will lead this agenda.
Q: What would you describe as your success story after AIMS?
Christian: Right after AIMS, I had the opportunity to be an assistant lecturer at Mount Kenya University, Rwanda, where I taught Mathematics in the School of Education until April 2018. While there, I also participated in the AIMS Knowledge Sharing Session (KSS), which equipped me with enough technical skills for industrial interviews. Through the MoU between AIMS and the National Institute of Statistics, Rwanda (NISR), I was selected as one of the nine alumni to intern with NISR. The KSS played a crucial role in preparing me for the interview session. Before the end of the internship period, I was offered a permanent job role at NISR as a Statistician in Charge of Monitoring Government Programs. Four months into the role, I was sent to Japan for training on producing official statistics for monitoring SDGs.
Q: What would you say to young Africans who read your story?
Christian: Everyone has a future in mind, and the key drivers to the achievement of these future goals are hard work, thinking outside the box, integrity, dignity and effective communication. Once you know how to apply these, life will be much easier.