One of Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s challenges is to advance engineering skills and knowledge in countries with critical infrastructure needs. Our continued partnership with The University of Manchester in supporting their Equity and Merit scheme aims to do just this, advancing the education of talented engineers in Africa’s developing economies to build essential community capacity and promote the safety of life, property and the environment.
Over the last year, we have sponsored two talented female engineers to study in Manchester: Grace Ingabire, who worked for a large construction company in Rwanda, and Prossie Arinaitwe, an Electrical Engineer for the Ugandan Rural Electrification Agency. We sat down and spoke to them about their experiences studying in a foreign country during a global pandemic.
Grace (left) - MSc Management of Projects (Construction), Prossie (right) MSc Electrical Power Systems Engineering
The prospect of studying in a completely different country far from family and friends must’ve been daunting, but for both Grace and Prossie their experience settling in was overwhelmingly positive.
Prossie described how “At first it was difficult to adjust to the weather, but with support from different students that I met at the George Kenyon Hall of Residence and in the university premises, it was easy to settle in and manage the conditions. This exposure has helped me to learn to appreciate people and also learning more about other countries, cultures, continents. This has broadened my knowledge about the globe.”
Grace echoed this sentiment. “I continue to enjoy the diversity of living in a multicultural society either on the University’s campuses or in the broader Manchester community. There have also been some of the memorable experiences, particularly on my visits to the Buckingham Palace, and the London Eye. The times I spent there were remarkable and fascinating, considering the admiration I had for these touristic sights, prior to my decision to study in the UK.”
The impact of COVID-19
Before starting at Manchester, it would’ve been hard to anticipate the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown on their university experience and learning.
“The pandemic happened when I was remaining with two weeks to complete the last physical class module and break off for Easter break. Immediately the university stopped physical contact classes as they encourage us to progress with coursework” said Prossie.
Grace explained some of the social consequences of the virus. “Compared to the previous semester, the cessation in the regular contact hours, and adaptation to the online study modes impacted on my expectations to visit other project sites. In addition, being locked-in for so long was not only unhealthy but also impacted on my social experiences as I was unable to meet with friends, colleagues or attend the social events I had envisaged.”
Both were quick to commend the university’s responsiveness and agility in implementing alternative methods of learning.
“The remaining classes were migrated to online through a period of one week. The course coordinators together with the professors/doctors created online groups using the university academic system where we were able to maintain contact communication with the professors/doctors. In addition, the University also brought on board PhD students to assist the professors to guide us in the different software’s for the remaining course modules. This made us feel that we are not in this alone and we have the universities support” said Prossie.
“While the effect of the pandemic on the university was significant, I was impressed with the support we got from the university including the immediate transition to the new virtual system of teaching. The University’s efforts to regularly communicate with students, and most importantly the assurances we received that our studies will not be interrupted were very encouraging” said Grace.
“I am very happy about the measures that were put in place to safeguard students, and other members of the society. As an upcoming alumnus of The University of Manchester, it gives me great joy to know about resilience in project settings, and the example my university sets by being responsive to emergent issues.”
Looking to the future
The equity and merit scheme is about building essential community capacity in terms of engineering and safety in developing African economies. Grace and Prossie have been looking to the future and thinking about how they can deliver impact with the knowledge they have gained in Manchester.
Prossie said she hopes to support her country to “come up with new policies to enforce safety measures for people and environment, especially in every project and industry… designing simple and safe technology solutions for local persons involved small scale production activities”.
Grace said “On my return home, I’m planning to work closely with the project organizations and broader stakeholder groups to increase the performance of construction projects, by transferring the knowledge I have gained about the organizational and strategic aspects of projects, planning control, risk management, and change management. In addition, I shall inspire and encourage the up and coming generation of built environment professionals especially female entrants about the opportunities for progression in the industry and the need to inculcate ethical practices to develop the professionalism of construction practitioners in Rwanda.”
The Equity and Merit scheme at The University of Manchester is one of many ways we’re investing in upskilling talented engineers to bridge the knowledge gap and make developing countries safer. Grace and Prossie’s enthusiasm to help make the world a safer place despite the complications they experienced due to COVID-19 is inspiring, and they are both well equipped to succeed following their year in Manchester and represent the Foundation for many years to come.
For more information, visit the programmes web page here