This week’s #alumoftheweek shares her passion for knowledge transfer and desire to be the change she wants to see in the world with us. Formerly of AIMS Cameroon, Nessma Adil Mahmoud Yousif, a Mastercard Foundation scholar, shares her journey before, during, and after AIMS.
Q: Tell us about your journey before AIMS.
Nessma: I graduated from Al-Neelain University, Khartoum, Sudan, with an Honors Bachelor Degree in Applied Mathematics, specifically, Mathematical Modeling and computational mathematics. After graduation, I served as a teaching assistant in my department, where I worked closely with lecturers and students. I was passionate about that position. The experience was rewarding for me as a person and as a growing scientist. I discovered my passion for teaching and knowledge transfer and the sense of responsibility to my home university and society.
Closing in on the 2018 academic year, many colleagues approached me with the idea to apply to AIMS, which by that time, I did not know. I sought the advice of my head of department at that time, Dr. Mohammed Abd Alaziz BAKHEET, and he welcomed the idea warmly, encouraged, and supported me when I was applying to AIMS, to which I am very grateful.
I did my research about my AIMS and got impressed by the training they are providing. I saw the future of Africa in that initiative. Since I graduated from the BSc program, my vision has been to work, develop and evolve to achieve my commitments and responsibilities towards my country and continent. I saw all of that in the model AIMS was running. Now, I can confidently say that AIMS is the best educational experience one can have – both academically and non-academically – and I strongly recommend it to all the bright minds of Africa.
Q: How would you describe your time at AIMS?
Nessma: I chose AIMS because I wanted to challenge myself to be better. I also needed the training they are providing to develop and polish my skills. I chose AIMS-Cameroon specifically because I wanted to develop my French language skills. In short, I wanted to be the best version of myself. Luckily, I found all that I aspired to have.
The best thing I enjoyed was getting to know my colleagues. AIMS encourages Pan-Africanism, and I think that Pan-Africanism is of high importance for the development of Africa.
I also appreciated being in a friendly environment with international staff and lecturers. I had the chance to sit, converse, have meals, and play table tennis with lecturers from all around the world, and that kind of opportunity to bond and network you don’t find every day.
One thing about having international lecturers is being exposed to different ways of learning, an infinite amount of information, as long as you reach out to learn. I loved my time at AIMS-Cameroon, and Limbe so much that I chose to stay in Limbe by changing from a Structured Master’s Program (10 months) to a Cooperative Master’s Program (18 months). Finally, I enjoyed football with my colleagues, of which I became an outstanding defender in my team!
Q: Tell us about the impact AIMS has had on you.
Nessma: AIMS helped me become confident as a person and a scientist. The experience at AIMS strengthened my stance to work under pressure, increased my confidence in solving problems, polished my research and presentation skills, exposed me to proper networking techniques, and helped me develop several soft skills.
I only mention these few given my current position – but in reality, you learn so many things that you don’t even realize that you learned until you have the chance to use those skills. I don’t know what I would have become if not for this AIMS opportunity.
Q: What would you describe as your post-AIMS success story?
Nessma: We measure every success story by its outcomes. In my case, I have two publications in high-level journals. I have started my Ph.D. even as I wrap up another Master’s degree in Germany. I have been traveling and visiting well-recognized institutes to share my knowledge, strengthen and expand my network.
I wouldn’t have guessed anything close to my current position if you had asked me before AIMS. All the skills, the knowledge, and the connections I gained during AIMS played a part in this journey; that is why I consider myself very lucky to have undergone such an educational and inspirational experience.
I have confidence in myself and my skills to finish with my doctorate studies and continue moving forward to affect and touch the lives of others. To reach out to all the students, share my experience, and prove that dreams and goals are realizable if you set your mind on them.
Q: Which of the SDGs is most important/relevant to you? How do you plan on addressing it in your work?
Nessma: At this point of my career, I relate to SDG 4 and 5 (Quality Education and Gender Equality). I was born and raised in Sudan, where the quality of education is still an ongoing concern. Percentage of illiteracy and child marriage show the gender gap concerns in the country. These obstacles still hold back children and knowledge-pursuers, especially girls, from education and pursuing careers. I aspire to be amidst the power of change to turn things around.
I enjoyed teaching and knowledge sharing when I worked as a teaching assistant at Al-Neelain University. Holding that position was an advantage and an honour to be a female mathematician. That made it easier for female students to approach me and see that they can become the person they want to be despite the community barriers, the gender gap, and stereotyping.
I became more aware of the problem at AIMS-Cameroon when I realized that gender equality is not a problem only in conservative communities but in all countries across Africa. I am planning my career – in a way – to always find time and space for knowledge transfer and sharing, to always find time to spread awareness about the gender gap and gender equity. That’s why I was delighted to return to AIMS-Cameroon and try to inspire the students, especially the female students – by pursuing my dreams. I was proud of myself.
Q: What is your message to current AIMS students and young people across the continent?
Nessma: Make the most of your experience, learn, get to know each other, adopt the spirit of giving back. You are the leaders of the future. You are responsible for your future, your country’s future, and the building of future generations.
I would also like to share few quotes. “One person of integrity can make a difference” and “If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.” So, be part of the solution.