Articles

International Science Programme – Meet PhD student Stella from Kenya

October 10, 2019


My name is Stellamaris Lydia Kioko. I was born in Katelembo cooperative Society
village in Machakos County in Kenya My dad and my mum were peasant farmers
and worked for the cooperative society. Growing up in a large family posed a lot of
challenges because of my family’s income. My parents, though not schooled,
valued education for boys only. Girls were considered that once grown,
they would get married and therefore not supplement to the family’s income. So as I grew up I was faced
with a great challenge to overcome given the fact that the fate for girls in my family
had already been sealed. Thank God for free primary education in my time, that would at least keep me in school for the next
couple of years before I can become a victim. I loved school so much. Many times I went without food but this
would not stop me from going to school. So that I would not feel hungry I would tie a belt around my stomach hidden
under my school uniforms and go to school. No one would notice I went hungry that night. It was survival for the fittest in my family. Only the boys who did exceptionally well
were taken to secondary school. Because of family’s financial situation
I could not go to secondary school. My dreams were shattered when it was suggested that I could be taken to a
vocational school for a tailoring course. The coming days I spent in tears crying to my
parents when other children had gone to school. Finally my parents saw that I meant it and nothing was going to work
for me except secondary Education. As long as I had stepped in high school, nothing was going to hinder me
from completing my secondary school. I was fortunate enough to be
sponsored by Co Sisters of Alfa Laval in Sweden who sponsored girls from
less privileged families in Kenya They sponsored me for a diploma course in
chemical engineering. After that, I applied for jobs
for over four years without success. Finally I got my first job as a
lab technologist with the Eldoret Polytechnic. Although I was very happy to have a job, I longed for an environment that
could challenge my brain. As a young woman, my prospects to move forward in my
career were equal to zero. To my great fortune something amazing happened in 1999. ISP together with the
University of DaresSalaam Tanzania started a program with my University. I was taken as one of the technicians in the group and through that I received fellowships
for technical training and undergraduate studies in Physics. After finishing my undergraduate studies in Tanzania, once again the good fortune shone upon me. The International Science Program (ISP) supported me through the photovoltaic’s research group
for a Masters degree in Physics. During my master’s degree, I designed a system for for testing defects in solar cells and used to test a monocrystalline solar cell. I am currently working on my
PhD project at Uppsala University, Sweden, again through ISP’s support. I do this on a sandwich basis, meaning that I do some of my research at Uppsala
University and part of it at my own university. My research entails use of solar energy
for treating domestic water. Uppsala University is a fantastic place to be. They really are at the forefront when it comes to research in this area. It will be of crucial value for my research when I will be back in Kenya. International Science program has molded me in all aspects of my Life. Apart from Education and research, I have been to many countries in the world, which has exposed me to multicultural environments. For me meeting with great scientists in the world as I persue my education and participate in international conferences and workshops always challenges me that
I can do something for my country. I intend to implement Photocatalysis as
an area of research at University of Eldoret these coming years together with my two supervisors from
Uppsala University and University of Eldoret. We also intend to implement a system for domestic water purification. This we will use to reach out to
communities in Kenya. Kenya has sunshine most months of the year and it is a free nonpolluting source of energy. This will reduce cases of people
suffering from water borne diseases and increased mortality rates
from drinking contaminated water. I have a passion for reaching out to communities especially the less privileged and communities in marginalized zones. I take at least 10 days yearly out of my leave days and identify areas in Kenya
where I could reach to Communities. I encouraged young children, teens and youths concerning education and being focused in life. I targeted Kamukunji slums
Eldoret where I spoke to children in one mission secondary school there. I encouraged them to work hard despite challenges of growing up in a slum and be focused in education. That education is the only key to success. I like encouraging Nobody will say because these children are from the slum, so lets give them help – no. It will be your hard work that will determine the final grade that you get. so the only thing is to get focused and move on and don´t look at what challenges utilize the little time you have, weather at school weather at home and you will make it by all means. Thank you Another thing that is dear to my heart is to encourage train and market use of solar cells for lighting homes. 67% of Kenyans live in rural areas, most without electricity. This will give chance to our children and schools to raise education standards. Furthermore, open fires and kerosene lamps indoors create contaminants that kill numerous every year. The knowledge we get through education is meant to encourage, inspire and develop our world but not for our own personal gains. I am so thankful to Sida, Uppsala University, the International Science Program for all financial support and making me the person I always wished I could be. In doing so, they have also helped my country Kenya

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