Tom’s master’s degree will help him ensure that the industrialisation and development of his home country of Uganda can take place in an environmentally sustainable way.
I am many miles from home but I don't feel like a stranger in a strange place Click To Tweet
Tom Geme is beaming from ear to ear as he walks out of the Whitworth Hall having just collected his degree certificate.
“I’m so happy. I’ve been looking forward to this for so long. It was such a nice moment, especially when you see people clapping for you and screaming your name! Everybody back home told me ‘don’t forget to send pictures! We need to see that moment on stage.’
From Uganda to Manchester
Tom and his three siblings grew up in central Uganda with a single mother for whom he clearly has a great deal of admiration and gratitude given her crucial role in his upbringing and education.
“My Mum had to take care of everybody in the family. She didn’t have a lot of money, but she used to do laundry for the neighbours. That was how she got to know a couple of people who helped me get a scholarship to study through school. Because of my good performance, my Bachelor’s Degree was funded by the government.
“Where I’m from, studying abroad is not a common thing. It’s a huge privilege, and I remember telling a lot of people when I got my confirmation letter from The University of Manchester. Everybody thought I was lying! It was unbelievable for them. No one expected someone like me to do that.
“My Mum actually still doesn’t believe me! The first thing I did when I got here was to buy her a phone so I could talk to her and take a few videos to show her what it’s like here.”
Tom is an Alan Gilbert Memorial Equity and Merit Scholar at Manchester. These students, from developing countries around the world, are selected for their academic excellence and commitment to the economic and social development of their home communities.
Conserving the environment in Uganda
Tom achieved distinction in his Master’s in Environmental Impact Assessment and Management and says the skills he has gained at Manchester will have a massive impact on his home country.
“In Uganda, we depend on natural resources and therefore the environment. We are developing and we have lots of new infrastructure but, if it isn’t well planned and organised, it will destroy the environment. With my degree, I will bridge the gap between construction and the environment which is very important.”
“This would mean we wouldn’t have the disparity which usually happens. In case of environmental degradation, the poorer people really suffer. However, if you can have better-organised management of infrastructure, what you will see is a balanced development so that everybody can benefit.”
A warm welcome from Manchester
As Tom prepares to return to Uganda, he reflects on his time in Manchester. Whilst he admits he won’t miss the Mancunian climate, he is grateful for the network he has established here, as well as the warm welcome he received from the University and the local community.
“The homeliness of the people here will really stay with me. I am many miles from home but I don’t feel like a stranger in a strange place.”
“The network I’ve built here is fundamental. Because I have learnt so many new skills, I will be venturing into new areas in which I will need a good network to be able to succeed.”
Graduating thanks to the help of donor support
While the University waives all tuition fees for Equity & Merit students like Tom, generous donors cover the students’ full living expenses, flights, and visa costs. Their vital support allows talented students from some of the poorest parts of the world access world-class education here at Manchester.
“I am so grateful for my scholarship and I shall forever be indebted, not only to The University of Manchester but also to everyone who’s helped to get me where I am.”
“I cannot say thank you enough, because this is something so magnificent. The scholarship has changed not just me, not just my family, but I am very sure it is going to change a nation.”
“Africa has suffered lots of problems but, through education, we can start to overcome those problems. I believe supporting education schemes such as this one is a great way to help communities around the world.”
Here at The University of Manchester, we believe that all those with the drive and ability to succeed should be able to access education – not just those who can afford it.
That’s why we’re proud to welcome up to 17 Equity and Merit scholars every year to our campus. Drawn from across Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia, our Equity and Merit scholars represent the best and the brightest of their communities.
Over the past 11 years, the Equity and Merit scholarship programme has helped 232 students achieve their full potential and learn vital new skills that will help support the development of their communities.