Elizabeth interviewing a farmer in Kilosa district in Morogoro, Tanzania as part of her MA research.
Elizabeth Isaya is a Tutorial Assistant at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA)’s Centre for Information and Communication Technology (CICT). She was also one of the 139 students supported by iAGRI to pursue an advanced research degree. She completed her studies with an MSc in Agricultural Communications at both Ohio State University in the US and at SUA in Tanzania. She wrote her thesis on Sources of Agricultural Information for Women Farmers in Hai and Kilosa Districts. In an interview with iAGRI Communications Intern, Kelvine Kazimoto, she shares some of the obstacles she overcame to pursue her studies and how the coursework prepared her for her current role.
Elizabeth attended Marian Girls High School in Bagamoyo, Tanzania where she opted to study chemistry, physics and mathematics, a combination known as PCM. “Attaining PCM credits was not easy,” she says. “We will always talk about success and accomplishments. However, people strive every day; whether in a job, career, studies or in planning the next thing.” Elizabeth planned her next phase of professional development by enrolling in computer science courses at the University of Dar es Salaam. “What shocked me was that there were relatively few female students in our class,” Elizabeth recalls. Despite being one of a handful of female students, Elizabeth excelled at computer science with the encouragement from her family and teachers.
Following her undergraduate studies, she applied to a job vacancy at SUA and was selected to work as a Tutorial Assistant in the CICT department. When Elizabeth saw the scholarship opportunity with iAGRI, she decided to apply. As a result, she began the next phase of her studies and traveled to Ohio State University on her first trip to the United States. “Moving to another country comes with its own challenges. The culture is different, the learning environment is different, the technology is different,” recalls Elizabeth. “I had to make a lot of adjustments.”
Her most memorable experience was the learning environment in her computer engineering class. She was shocked that the students were much younger and the environment was so competitive. “They knew so much and always asked innovative and challenging questions” she recalls. The teaching model in the US also required some adjustment. “It was very interactive. Lecturers can interact with students at any particular moment to bring the entire class on board.” The combination of the interactive teaching methods and exposure to new programs motivated Elizabeth to develop advanced skills in computer science and informatics.
Following her courses in Ohio, Elizabeth returned to Tanzania to conduct field research on sources of agricultural information used by farmers in Tanzania. “Women farmers constitute the majority of farmers in Tanzania. Knowing how they source their information will enable the Tanzanian government and international organizations to directly channel information to women farmers,” she elaborates.
Through the support of iAGRI, Elizabeth is now able to put her skills to use, not only to increase the efficiency of her department, but also to teach others. Today, Elizabeth teaches courses on introduction to microcomputers, software engineering and program management at SUA and hopes to pursue a PhD in the future.