By Tekle Tesfalidet
As the saying goes, investing in education always yields the best dividends. It is widely recognized that investing in education is one of the most valuable investments an organization or a country can make, given its long-term benefits that far outweigh the initial costs. Although investing in education or training demands significant time, effort, and financial resources, the knowledge and skills acquired through education can lead to greater opportunities for individuals, sponsoring organizations, and the country at large.
In line with this perspective, as mentioned in our previous issue, NIPN Ethiopia has awarded PhD scholarships to five employees from EPHI and one from the Ministry of Agriculture/Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR). These recipients are currently pursuing their studies at prestigious universities, including Oklahoma State University (OSU), Addis Ababa University (AAU), Wageningen University and Research (WUR), and University College Cork (UCC).
In our previous issue, we explored the stories of two scholarship winners participating in a dual degree program offered by OSU and AAU. Now, we shift our focus to two scholarship recipients from EPHI and the Ministry of Agriculture/EIAR. They are currently studying at Wageningen University and Research (WUR) and University College Cork (UCC). Temesgen Awoke, from EPHI, is pursuing his education at UCC, while Ruth Mijena, from the MOA/EIAR, is studying at WUR. Both of them have served as researchers in their respective organizations.
This piece will focus on their areas of research, the significant impact the scholarships have had on their professional trajectories, and their commitment to their organization and country.
Rightly, they are both highly appreciative of the scholarship grant. Temesgen says, “Receiving this scholarship is essential for my financial stability and is a crucial component of my academic pursuits, complemented by additional institutional support.” Ruth, on her part, remarks, “I am grateful that the scholarship is helping me to pay for tuition fees and living allowances during the course of the PhD.”
When elaborating on the impact that the scholarship will have on the recipients, Dr. Aregash Samuel, Senior Researcher at EPHI and NIPIN Ethiopia Coordinator, said, 'As PhD students, they are going to generate data-based evidence, and all of them are studying nutrition-related issues.” Adding further, she said, “Yes, their research findings will contribute to the science and fill the existing evidence gap in nutrition."
Speaking about his specific research topic for his PhD studies, Temesgen emphasizes that his research focuses on the food system of Ethiopia, particularly the food practices and their impact on diet quality and nutrient intake. He explains, "Through this study, my aim is to provide new empirical evidence on aspects of the food system and diet that have not been thoroughly explored before."
Ruth, on her part, said that the topic of her PhD study is “Circular food systems for a healthy diet and planet: The Ethiopian case.”She hoped that her study on circular food would have a significant impact on public health by examining whether the current food system contributes to a healthy diet or not. If not, she pointed out, "I aim to explore whether we can achieve a healthy diet and a sustainable environment by modeling and transitioning to a circular food system. Additionally, I will compare the current and future scenarios and propose pathways for policy development."
Regarding the challenges she encountered during her PhD program, Ruth highlighted the various obstacles she faced, particularly as a woman and a parent. She acknowledged that she constantly needed to find a balance between the demands of her study and her family responsibilities. The fact that her husband is taking most of the family responsibility and her daughter’s support is helping her to focus on her study. She emphasized that pursuing a PhD was a decision made by the entire family, considering it as a shared mission. Ruth expressed her optimism, stating, "I hope that we will successfully overcome these challenges when I graduate."
In Temesgen's case, one of the challenges he encountered was that the scholarship solely covered the tuition fee, “leaving no provision for research expenses.”
As young and dedicated public health researchers, Ruth and Temesgen have already established themselves as valuable assets within their respective organizations, which is why they were awarded the scholarship grant. Now, with the prestigious scholarship they have been granted, Ruth and Temesgen are even more determined to serve diligently, fully acknowledging and appreciating the significant investment made in their education and professional development.
When asked about his commitment to serving his organization after graduation, Temesgen stated, “I would serve my Institute according to the commitment I signed.”In response to the same question, Ruth expressed her dedication by saying, "To the fullest extent." She further emphasized, "As I mentioned earlier, the terms and conditions of the contract should not restrict a researcher who has the desire to serve his country to the fullest extent."
In conclusion, EPHI and NIPN Ethiopia's unwavering dedication to training and nurturing capable individuals to effectively promote nutrition and tackle the various factors contributing to malnutrition is evident. The provision of scholarships to the six individuals is a testament to their ongoing efforts. However, expanding these efforts by actively pursuing more scholarship opportunities for aspiring researchers, both domestically and internationally, is essential to inspiring and supporting future scholars in the field. While such initiatives pose challenges in terms of time, resources, and temporary personnel loss, the resulting benefits are highly rewarding.