When the office of the Deputy University Registrar (DUR) circulated to all students a call for abstracts which the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) received through networks from the University of Oldenburg in Germany, little did it know that it will help one student to hoist MUST and Malawi’s flags at the 2nd World Congress on Undergraduate Research in Germany.
The call had asked university students from across the world to submit abstracts on areas such as environment, politics, communication, economy, create and health.
Being an Earth Science student, the choice was easy for Temwani Chisunkha, he settled for environment and submitted an abstract on the topic: “A study on ground water with special reference on fluoride levels and an account for the governing rock-water interactions: A case for Phalombe district in Malawi”.
“Something just told me to give it a try. I do not even know how many students from MUST or indeed Malawi responded to the call. However, I was excited last December when I received feedback that after the first review of the abstracts, I scored 80 percent and I was among a group of 600 international students from across the globe that had made it to the next phase,” said Temwani, a fourth year student, in a recent interview.
“Later, I was also contacted again by Oldenburg University that I had made it into the final stage of around 220 global students who will participate in this year’s Congress. In this last group, I am the only Malawian and I will be going to Germany with 29 other Africans.”
Temwani, who will be in Germany between May 20 and 28, said the main task in Germany is to present his research project.
“I am going there as an individual and will make the presentation as an individual. Some of my colleagues were working in groups so they will present as groups,” said Temwani.
After the abstract, Temwani said in between he has been refining the project, collected samples in the field and did analysis in the laboratory.
Now he has findings and their impact on the Malawian community and those in the tropical regions of Africa.
The project’s results were expanded beyond Malawi as the organisers wanted something that would reflect global significance.
According to the organisers, the Congress is an internationally organised forum offering undergraduate students the opportunity to present their research.
“This student’s submission received favourable scientific reviews. Therefore, he is invited to present the research project to other undergraduate researchers and faculty members from all over the world.
“Temwani is also a beneficiary of the ‘Travel Support Program’ which the University of Oldenburg and the German State of Lower Saxony finance to ensure that excellent students from low- and middle-income countries are able to attend the World Congress,” reads in part a letter from Professor Sabine Kyara inviting Temwani to the Germany.
Temwani, whose Bachelor’s degree dissertation is on a similar topic, said the difference between the two is the application in that the German university wanted a research project that would have international application and impact and he focused on the African region.
Asked how he reacted to the news, Temwani said it was a very exciting time, especially realising that his knowledge and skills had been recognised at that international level.
“Most youth in Malawi and Africa in general underestimate themselves and think that they cannot compete on the international stage. But I am proof that we can do it. As such, I would like to urge my fellow youth to take on such opportunities and showcase Malawian talent to the global world. In so doing, we will also be promoting our country,” he said.
Temwani paid tribute to MUST for facilitating acquisition of his passport.
“However, the host is providing for everything from air tickets to accommodation and local transportation within Germany and Netherlands. Much as we are going there for the research project presentations, the programme has been arranged in such a way that we will also have social and tourism outing in the Netherlands and German itself.
“For example, after arrival in Oldenburg, we will later proceed to the Netherlands for social programmes, tourism and interactions with other universities. Then we will be back in Germany after a few days for the 15 minute presentations for each group or individual. Finally, we will also go for social programmes and tourism in North West Germany, especially to the harbours and islands,” he said.
Of the 15 minute presentation time, five minutes will be for question and answer sessions.
Temwani said he settled for research on ground water quality because most Malawians suffer from diseases that are caused by poor quality of water.