By Stanley Kamande, IMPA 2014
I had nurtured the desire to pursue a master’s degree for a very long time. However, due to the prohibitive cost of self sponsoring myself, exigencies of duty and owing to remote postings where access to university was outright impossible, I generally grew to accept the fact that it was not possible. However, in year 2010 I got a transfer to the Nairobi headquarters of my ministry which immediately changed my circumstances. Before long, I was slowly inducted into China and Tsinghua University in small doses as if preparing me for the life changing opportunity that was to follow.
My first visit to China occurred in year 2011 when I was invited to attend a three weeks seminar on Public Administration for Anglophone African Countries held in Beijing city as a part of a government delegation. My first impression of Beijing was a developed city and the dream of developing countries such as Kenya. The flawless subway network, the wide roads and smooth sailing freeways and tall magnificent buildings deeply contrasted with my home country and left a deep impression in me. During the same time, I toured Xiangyang city in Hubei Province and saw what our host described as rural China but which to me was even more developed than Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. Meanwhile in Beijing, through a colleague, I met a Kenyan student who was pursuing the IMPA program in Tsinghua. From her I got to learn a lot about most reputable university in China which whetted my desire to seek for an opportunity to study with Tsinghua in future.
Later in the office, I was lucky to share an office with another graduate of Tsinghua University IMPA 2009. Through her my desire of joining Tsinghua developed further. It was therefore by sheer coincidence that Tsinghua Program office later contacted her alongside other alumnae requesting her to nominate a suitable candidate for the course and I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I subsequently competed with several other nominees at the Economic and Commercial Counselor’s office of the Embassy of the Peoples’ Republic of China in Kenya and emerged the only successful candidate. Therefore to me coming to study at Tsinghua was the epitome of a dream come true. I was at last joining the University of my Dreams for a much needed masters degree course.
My studies in Tsinghua started well thanks to the ever caring program office. It was a relaxed atmosphere with studies intermixed with leisure tours around the city. As part of the program, I got the opportunity to tour scenic sports in Beijing such as the Beijing Capital museum, former imperial garden, Yuan Ming Yuan and Summer Palace. Several prominent personalities were also invited to give lectures to our class which greatly exposing us to contemporary leadership and development issues across the world. I found Tsinghua a truly deep refreshing and quenching fountain of knowledge.
During the summer break, our school organized a ten day tour of South Eastern China which took us by speed train (another first to me) to Shanghai city and by air to Jiangxi Province where we got to sample both urban and rural china back to back. In Shanghai, we got to sample the colonial legacy of China, its highly developed and modern port city. Jianxi holds most of the ancient porcelains which gave the country its name as well as the birth place of the communist revolution. Separately, I also got a chance to visit Tianjin, home to the famous TIIDA, with our leadership class and Guangzhou (the African landing city) and Shenzhen (first opening up city) with my newly acquired Chinese friends. Through these tours, I had a thrilling practical experience of China and much appreciated the effort the country has taken to develop.
In the course of the one year, I have met and made friends with many Chinese nationals, both in and outside school which has helped me to build a richer understanding of the Chinese culture and her people. I also had an opportunity to assist a team of seven Chinese students from Tsinghua University to visit my home country on an Educational Volunteer and Wildlife Conservation Promotion Tour. The tour was launched by the Kenya's Ambassador to china H.E Ambassador Michael Kinyanjui together with other dignitaries. During their tour, they taught Kenyan primary school kids Chinese language skills, mathematics and science and also donated a wildlife tracking software to protect wildlife especially the endangered elephant and rhino from poachers to the Kenya Wildlife Service. During their visit, they also toured the famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve and were impressed by the rich flora and fauna including the famous Big Five. They came back with praises about the beauty of Kenya’s wildlife and the friendly relations of her people.
But another memorable experience yet was when I got an opportunity to do an interview for promotion while still studying at Tsinghua. Through the social media, I had got aware of an internal advertisement in my ministry for applicants for the position of Senior Assistant Secretary. This position required one to have at least a master’s degree among other qualifications in addition to passing an oral interview with the Public Service Commission. It was a rare but very competitive opportunity which means a lot to officers in my career because it’s the bridging level between middle level management and senior management. I applied online hoping against all odds that I would be considered and highlighting my soon to be IMPA qualification. To my surprise, I got shortlisted despite the distance and did the interview via videoconference courtesy of SPPM program office. Many thanks to Tsinghua University for availing the videoconference facility and the pending master’s degree course which was accepted among other qualifications.
With all these memorable episodes, I can never find enough words to describe my experience in China with any degree of justice. Thanks to the School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University and the People’s Republic of China for the opportunity of a lifetime. I will forever treasure your precious memories all my life.