On my graduation day, my workmate posted my photo on her social media together with these words which powerfully resonated with my storyline “from CPP (in charge of professional practice) to doctorate level! it is a big journey”. I actually entered the academic world when I was holding an advanced diploma in Nursing and my main job description was merely helping students to learn nursing procedures (demonstration) either in the skills lab or in the hospital. I had dreams to become a PhD holder to get right to teach but also to be involved in research. However, I could not tell how those dreams would come true. The journey seemed impossible as the highest level in Nursing at our school was a bachelor. So this accomplishment tells me how far I have come from. I never got discouraged, I did not sleep and I kept trying different opportunities. When I reflect on this last four years’ journey at University of Witwatersrand, with the support from CARTA, I can use this quote of Coco Channel to explain what accomplishment means to me: “If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.” Coming back to the story, I responded to my workmate that indeed a big journey starts with a small step and this is what I believe.

In this issue of the semi-annual newsletter, we take an in-depth look at how CARTA adapted to going virtual and local to keep the program moving. We talk to our co-director, Catherine Kyobutungi, about CARTA’s journey during the pandemic, the Program’s foray into the virtual realm, and the innovative transitions that have taken place so far. Our graduates also share their accounts of how they adapted to research and teaching in the new era. Besides, one of our latest graduates, Marie Chantal Uwimana from the University of Rwanda talks to us about her PhD journey, the lessons she learned, and most importantly, her progress despite the challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In essence, we bring you stories of fellows, graduates, focal persons and partners; of their innovative, creative and triumphant ways, and of the progress, they have made as they worked, taught, and attended meetings and conferences virtually.

Happy reading!

Read it Here

CARTA newsletter Jan-July 2021

I am a female scientist, a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and a proud beneficiary of the CARTA Cohort three PhD fellowships awarded in 2012 to 23 students from across Africa. Receiving the CARTA fellowship was a privilege that led me towards achieving my career goals in research and academia and contributing effectively to Africa’s transformation. CARTA fellowship included working predominantly with world-renowned researchers and having the opportunity to attend advanced specialized training courses facilitated by dedicated scholars across the globe. CARTA fellowship provided unique opportunities that made it possible to combine my laboratory research experience and social science aspects to answer public health research questions allowing a meaningful contribution in the international literature.

While I was so grateful for the PhD CARTA fellowship for making the experience worthwhile, I hadn’t anticipated that the benefits of being a CARTA fellow would continue to grow well beyond the scholarship duration. After graduating with a PhD in 2016, I applied for the CARTA re-entry grant, which I was awarded in 2017, and subsequently awarded the CARTA Postdoctoral fellowship in 2020. The wealth of knowledge and experiences gained through CARTA has been instrumental in my research and academic activities over the years. Through the CARTA fellowship, I have horned my skills in different dimensions: spanning from zero publications when I joined as a PhD candidate to 13 publications in reputable international journals to date, and I have several more in the works.

A critical part of being a CARTA fellow for me is to be able to avail opportunities to others, mentor junior scholars, and reciprocate in kind what CARTA has invested in me. As a lecturer, my primary roles are teaching, research and consultancy, and a PhD through CARTA was a complete package offering pedagogical courses, grant writing workshops, and supervision trainings, among other things. Since graduation, I have supervised completing one PhD, and two M. Sc students have successfully graduated, and I am currently supervising One PhD candidate, 4 M.Sc students, and several undergraduate projects.

In research, I have been a recipient of the competitive research grants by the University of Dar es Salaam, and from 2017, I have won three grants as a Principal Investigator. Through the CARTA fellowship, I have formed networks and research teams within and outside the Consortium, and we are putting up applications for mega grants together. The generosity and guidance of the CARTA secretariat, the collaborations among the fellows from different countries in Africa, the interaction with distinguished international researchers within the CARTA fraternity is a unique opportunity to further professional development and extending professional networks.

I believe my research on malaria vector control will contribute to the malaria end game: further details of my work can be accessed at Anitha Philbert – Google Scholar.

Anitha Philbert (Cohort Three Graduate, University of Dar es Salaam) is a lecturer in the Department of Zoology and Wildlife,  University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Upon receiving my Masters in Health Economics from Australia in 2013, I was enthusiastic to begin my PhD at the earliest possible time. My passion for pursuing a PhD was mainly to assist in the capacity building of the Pharmacy Department at the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine (now Kamuzu University of Health Sciences). As a new programme, the pharmacy department had only a few PhD-holder educators and one international professor. This became my motivation to be among the few pharmacists to acquire a PhD and enhance the department’s research capabilities. It should be noted that Malawi had very few pharmacists with PhDs at the time.

I sought to find suitable supervision locally in order to be enrolled at the University of Malawi, since I did not want to embark on this long journey away from my country, my university, and my family. Though PhD opportunities in the pharmaceutical field are scarce, the University of Malawi-College of Medicine has an approved PhD programme as long as suitably qualified supervisors are available.
Then, by luck, under the stewardship of Professor Lutz Heide, the thought of pursuing a PhD in Pharmacy at the University of Malawi (UNIMA) began to appeal to me. Professor Heide is a pharmacist who was appointed through the GIZ-CIM programme to help enhance the Pharmacy Department. I applied for a CARTA PhD scholarship, which was supplemented with a GIZ-Malawi research grant, to investigate the quality of medications in Malawi. With this grant, I was able to enrol in UNIMA’s PhD programme, and Prof. Heide was supportive of my CARTA scholarship application. This was our Pharmacy Department’s first PhD enrolment.

Being the first PhD entrant meant that the road ahead would not be easy. The CARTA scholarship came to my aid in bridging this gap. CARTA’s program organizes Joint Advanced Seminars (JASes), which are meant to mentor and support PhD candidates from diverse African nations. Since then, my journey with JASes has reignited the academician in me, propelling me to greater heights.

The JASes that I completed during my CARTA scholarship enriched me and continued to bear fruit. I had one publication and one local conference presentation before the CARTA mentoring and JASes. Through the mentorship in JASes, I began dreaming of extending my footprint in publications and research grant applications. During my PhD, this resulted in a number of high-quality publications, as well as local and international dissemination of study findings. Despite the fact that UNIMA criteria allowed for a PhD to be obtained solely through the completion of a thesis paper, JASes emphasized that a PhD should be supported by a number of publications in order to be more successful. As a result, I was able to publish my first three papers for my PhD thesis, with the support of my supervisors. The support from CARTA during my PhD was invaluable, allowing me to graduate earlier than the majority of my university’s other PhD candidates.

This culture of publication has become so ingrained in me that I have progressed from one publication prior to CARTA, to around 17 publications currently, with the numbers continuing to rise ( My work has been published in reputable journals and has influenced policy both locally (Malawi) and internationally. A key example is in two of my earlier works that were included in a WHO-review paper on “A study on the public health and socioeconomic impact of substandard and falsified medical products,” which is a significant accomplishment.

Has the CARTA culture developed an impact on my publications alone? No. The great writing culture that is seen in my numerous papers has also influenced my grant writing. Prior to CARTA, I received a maximum of two research grants, with a total value of around USD 70,000. CARTA has improved my grant writing skills, resulting in the award of six other grants totalling approximately USD 820,000 since then. The most recent is the EDCTP grant worth EUR 149,148. The fact that these grants were awarded has demonstrated that my research output has greatly improved, while my grant management skills have also been enhanced.

Prior to CARTA, I was only involved in a minimal fraction of undergraduate research supervision. Currently, I have been devoting much of my time in postgraduate student supervision with the aim to enhance the next generation of critical thinkers and researchers. As part of my recent EDCTP grant. I focused on having one PhD student registered and supported by the grant, as well as several undergraduate student projects with research groups that include female members. The inclusion of females is to encourage girls to participate in research and science, as we know that there are very few females in Africa who are interested in scientific-related courses.

Finally, my research efforts resulted in significant local interventions. I have been able to organise a range of key seminars at which the Secretary for Health and the Chief of Health Services from Malawi’s Ministry of Health has attended as the guest of honour. One of the local events was also graced by the presence of the German Ambassador to Malawi. The aim of these seminars was to share key results in order to inform policy. Furthermore, some of our research findings led to the withdrawal of many substandard medicines from Malawi’s health system.

In great measure, I accredit this to CARTA, GIZ-Malawi, their management, and other various funders, as well as the guidance of my numerous mentors, with Prof. Heide taking the lead. For this incredible journey, I owe a debt of gratitude to the management of Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (formerly College of Medicine, University of Malawi) as well as our CARTA cohort five colleagues. My appreciation especially goes out to my wife and sons for their immeasurable support throughout this journey.

Felix (Cohort Five Fellow, University of Malawi) is a lecturer at the Pharmacy Department, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (formerly College of Medicine, University of Malawi).

CARTA fellows who attended the fourth JAS in 2018, published an article in PLOS ONE on their experiences at CARTA. The article titled ‘Experiences of doctoral students enrolled in a research fellowship program to support doctoral training in Africa (2014 to 2018): The Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa odyssey’, focused on the organization of the program and its influence on the fellows’ individual and institutional development. 
Folusho Balogun and Sara Jewett, two Graduates who are part of the group that wrote the article have shared a blog article with insight into the publication.

The high burden of both communicable and non-communicable diseases in Africa is widely recognized. This has persisted because of the poor health systems and a mismatch between the huge burden of diseases and limited research activities to address them in many African countries. Health care researchers from within Africa, who are properly equipped with the necessary research and leadership skills are needed to drive the efforts to tackle these problems.

There have been previous efforts to address Africa’s population and public health problems using vertical programs and the provision of foreign training for African researchers. These efforts were not effective but resulted in stressing the already weak health systems. This was because the skills acquired could not adequately address the local health problems because of a near lack of knowledge about the dynamics of these health problems within the local context. There is therefore a need to provide appropriate responses to the health challenges in Africa using innovative, acceptable, and holistic approaches.

The role of a robust capacity-building program for African researchers in addressing these population health problems cannot be overemphasized; this is one of the responsibilities that the Consortium for Advanced Research and Training in Africa (CARTA) has taken up in the past decade. CARTA is a partnership involving nine African universities and research institutions that was established in 2009 with an aim to transform African universities into centers of academic and research excellence. One of CARTA’s strategies is to support upcoming academics in the partner universities to obtain world-class doctoral training in public and population health-related fields and to make them research and academic leaders who can influence policy change. This training is rolled out in form of a four-year doctoral fellowship program. The fellowship activities include attendance of four intensive and compulsory residential advanced seminars (which uses a multidisciplinary approach to teach research skills) where participatory and experiential learning take place. The fellowship also provides research items including a laptop with the necessary software, small research grant support, funding of internship, and conference attendance. There are also funds to support for a protected writing time where the fellows can focus on writing their doctoral manuscripts and thesis, in addition to paid tutor exchange programs where other academics temporarily take up the academic responsibilities of the fellows so that they can focus on their doctoral research.

In our recent publication, we as CARTA fellows highlighted the impact of CARTA fellowship on us as individuals and at institutional level. We also reflected on the impact on our doctoral research. All the 21 fellows who participated in this qualitative evaluation concluded that the CARTA fellowship was not only a well-organized and strategic in design, it has had major positive impacts on us and our institutions. The support and exposure of the fellowship significantly increased the quality of our doctoral research because of the new research skills, financial support and access to guidance by the advanced seminar facilitators. This encouraged fellows to conduct multidisciplinary research which is one of CARTA’s main thrusts. There also was a remarkable increase in the number of research grants won, peer-reviewed publications and presentations at scientific conferences by the fellows since we started the CARTA fellowship. Not only have we gained more confidence in research because of CARTA, but our teaching techniques have also improved. We have also started occupying academic and administrative leadership positions effectively in our home institutions, attributable to the leadership skills we obtained from the CARTA fellowship.

The CARTA experience has been a life-transforming one for us with a significant impact on our research, academic and individual lives. We deem the program impactful and suggest that similar programs on the continent can emulate the CARTA model to have far-reaching effects on individuals and institutions. This will vastly increase the research outcome generated within the continent to address the significant health problems therein. There will also be a ready pool of seasoned research leaders who can coordinate the required activities due to their leadership skills. This can also be a path to effectively reduce the brain drain that has plagued Africa as trained fellows will have a sense of fulfillment and relevance in their country homes when they become actively involved in the provision of evidence-based solutions to the public and population health problems that abound in Africa. Truly, the CARTA model is worth reproducing all through the African continent and beyond.

For the #CARTA100 series, Alexander Kagaha (Cohort Seven Graduate, Makerere University) starts us off by sharing the interesting story of his PhD journey. Read on. 

Getting started
It began with an interest in discourses and discursive power and practice and its effects on population health. It then rose through rigorous engagements in joint advanced seminars in Kampala and Johannesburg, before finally finding focus in abortion care. This infancy stage was the most challenging, confusing, and yet enriching experience through which I discovered my ignorance, concretised my abstract concepts, and acquired its communication art. The willingness to accept criticisms from peers and mentors, the realisation that there is no shortcut to progress, and the willingness to move an extra mile in pursuing that idea, are some of the best lessons I draw from this phase.

Leveraging on the institutional resources made my PhD journey smooth. I considered myself privileged when I got the CARTA fellowship, for I had become worried about getting PhD funding, having turned down an offer for a PhD study with my supervisor at the University of Liverpool in 2010, because I didn’t think I needed it then. And yes, I received another generous funding from ADDRF. In the school of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, I met my mentor, whose largeness of mind, eye for detail, generosity with her accumulated global expertise on anthropological, public health and reproductive health matters, and desire to mentor young ones offered the best resources any PhD student could ever dream about. My doctoral journey with Professor Lenore Manderson was beyond academics. It embraced professionalism and mental support. Together with the entire faculty team at the School of Public Health, anything that disturbed my progress became a concern for all. From personal welfare to office space and monthly seminars, abundant institutional support was felt. At Makerere University, any support I needed was accorded.

Flexibility and willingness to adapt to the environment

When COVID-19 broke out, I was at a critical moment of having to write my doctoral dissertation. At home, social relationships and financial constraints made it difficult to concentrate, and my work stalled. Fortunately, I received financial support from CARTA for an academic writing retreat at Lake Bunyonyi, western Uganda. The ambiance of the lonely and isolated stay on one of the islands for the 3-months retreat, allowed for the utmost critical reflection, reading, thinking and writing. I was able to submit my dissertation and manuscripts for publication. All this would not have been possible without the innovation within CARTA. Blocking time for academic reading, thinking and writing, is one of the best resources a PhD student could be privileged to have.

Now that the PhD journey is over, a new research leadership journey has just begun. The challenges that perpetually confront an African population in a global context demands new philosophical redirections and mentoring a new breed of researchers along that path. I embrace this challenge with love, knowing that a firm foundation has been set.

This is part of the #CARTA100 series as we celebrate passing the 100 Graduate mark. We will document stories of our Graduates as they share about their PhD and career journeys. 

Teenage mothers, their peculiarity and perinatal depression

Teenage pregnancies occur in every country globally, but the prevalence is highest (56%) in Sub- Saharan Africa. In Nigeria, the majority of teen age’s live birth before age 18 years is 31%. WHO’s documents further report that 39% of teenagers in the less developed countries give birth before 18 years, primarily due to lack of education and forced marriage culture. However, the issue of focus here about teenage mothers is their mental health.

Teenage mothers are at a higher risk of depression and other mental health problems regardless of being married or not. The adolescent stage is a period of physical and psychological development with many identity crises that could predispose them to delinquencies and mental health issues. These teenage perinatal mental health problems often lead to poor outcomes, including parenting with anger, hatred, neglect, poor child’s physical and psychological development, and mother’s poor quality of life.

Therefore, access to mental health care becomes necessary for a teenage mother. Studies have shown that they experience barriers to accessing mental health care. Still, a study in Latin America shows that youths utilized mobile phones to access mental health care against all obstacles. This innovation is a ray of hope for adolescent mental health. Hence, we also decided to examine the feasibility of utilizing mobile phones to deliver mental health information among teenage mothers in Nigeria.

Ownership, usage, access to mobile phones among teenage mothers

We surveyed 260 adolescent mothers of an average age of 18 years who seek health care in Oyo State, South Western Nigeria. 92.3% of them had achieved senior secondary school education while only 8.8% were married. Their phone use and acceptance of mHealth were examined, and we found that 233 of the girls owned phones where 23.2% of them owned smartphones, while 39.5% owned internet keypad phones with Facebook and game applications. 37.3% of the girls owned Symbian phones, and the average age that they started using their phones was 15.5 years. Just a few girls, 27 of them, did not own a phone, and of these, 22 could access their relations’ phones for an average of 80 minutes a day.

The teenage mothers utilized all different network providers available in their area depending on the network’s strength, affordability, and promo. 85% of the girls used their phones for an average of 45 minutes a day, 8% used their phones to text, while 83.4% of them used their phones to go on Facebook and browse online for up to 112 minutes per day. A small percentage of 3.1% used their phones to search on google for 110 minutes a day and WhatsApp for an average of 104 minutes a day. Phone calls are the most engaging activities, followed by watching movies and calling and texting their boyfriends and husbands the most.

Interest of teenage mothers in m-mental health

Teenage mothers showed enthusiasm in accessing mental health information. Nearly all teenage mothers, i.e., 96.2%, are interested in getting mental health preventive health, and the majority also wanted information on the treatment of mental illness information on their mobile phones. Half of them wanted the information by text, only 10.4 % wanted the information by videos.

Feasibility of mobile phone-based mental health information service

Our study shows quite promising possibilities for m-mental health interventions for teenage mothers in Nigeria. It is the first of its kind to document such findings from Primary health care, which serves the grassroots. From our findings, it is worth noting that the teenagers achieved adequate education to operate any type of phone and may feel more comfortable in activities with privacy. Therefore, their extensive access to mobile text and the internet, coupled with their willingness to accept mHealth could be leveraged to make text/audiovisual-based mental health interventions possible. Hence, mental health policies and programs could equally leverage these mHealth findings to improve adolescents’ access to mental health care even in Africa.


Adeyinka (CARTA Cohort Three Graduate, University of Ibadan) is a chief Social Worker in the Psychiatry Department, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan. She provides psychosocial services to psychiatry patients and teaches medical students social psychiatry practical courses.

South Africa’s mining industry has long been an important part of the country’s economy.

In 2020 alone, despite COVID-19, mining contributed R361.6 billion (almost 20 billion US dollars) towards South Africa’s gross domestic product, a share of over 8%. The industry employs 451,000 people.

But despite its value and the regulations in place to protect workers, it has been criticised for a poor record of health and safety.

The South African constitution guarantees workers’ right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing. Employers must provide a reasonably practicable working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of employees.

The mining sector has been accused of neglecting the fundamental rights of most mineworkers. It has failed to implement adequate occupational health and safety regulations on a number of fronts, including monitoring new occupational diseases and injuries.

The country’s miners face a number of hazards. These include fatalities, silicosis (a lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust in gold mines) and occupational noise-induced hearing loss.

Hearing conservation programmes were introduced nationwide in 2003 by the Mine Health and Safety Council, an organisation comprising labour, the state and employers. But in 2013 the industry conceded that these were not having the desired impact of reducing the new cases of occupational noise induced hearing loss.

As a response to this admission, we conducted a study to understand how these programmes were being implemented in the industry and to identify areas for improvement.

We found a number of gaps in these programmes. There were no clearly defined action plans. We also found flaws in the formulation of hearing conservation programmes. Intervention programmes need to include occupational audiologists. Furthermore, the mining industry needs to be accessible for research purposes.

Noise-induced hearing loss
The Leon Commission in 1995 was the first inquiry into occupational health and safety in South Africa’s mining industry for more than 30 years. Eventually, in 2003, hearing conservation programmes were rolled out throughout the industry.

The programmes targeted two key areas. The first stated no employee’s hearing should deteriorate by more than 10% from the baseline by December 2008. The second was to ensure that, by December 2013, the total noise emitted by all equipment would not be higher than a sound pressure level of 110 dB(A).

Hearing conservation programmes are complex and need an integrated approach. These programmes require a range of actions to be taken. For example employers must monitor the workers’ noise exposure levels. And employees’ hearing must be monitored over time.

At the summit to review the milestones in 2013, the chairperson of the Mining Council admitted that the industry was not making the desired progress with noise-induced hearing loss.

The issue of occupational noise-induced hearing loss is prominent in the mining industry. But there is a lack of information on the extent of hearing loss – this is part of the problem.

Occupational noise-induced hearing loss is not life-threatening. But it has long-lasting health, psychosocial and economic effects.

Our research investigated the management of occupational noise-induced hearing loss in the South African mining industry from policy formulation to implementation, monitoring and evaluation. We interviewed members of the Mine Health and Safety Council and analysed regulations and policies on the management of occupational noise-induced hearing loss since 1994.

There was a lack of comprehensive studies addressing all the pillars of hearing conservation programmes. Some stakeholders were excluded from the formulation and implementation of these programmes. We also identified gaps in the role of occupational audiologists in the mining sector.

In addition, we faced restrictions when trying to gain access to the mining industry for research purposes. At the core of the problem was the fact that hearing conservation programmes are complex interventions. They have multiple pillars. These include periodic noise exposure measurement and monitoring, engineering controls as well as personal hearing protection. Hearing conservation programmes are also influenced by the behaviour of various actors such as mine management and mineworkers. Additionally, there are few studies focusing on understanding the processes followed in the implementation of hearing conservation programmes.

Our original review of hearing conservation programmes was published in 2018. But more recent research I’ve done shows that the problems persist. Hearing conservation programmes are fragmented. For example, workers were not adequately trained on using hearing protection devices.

Way forward
Currently, hearing conservation programmes are not successful and this may not change unless contextually relevant changes are adopted.

These changes include embracing innovative and evidence-based advances in hearing conservation programmes. Objective stakeholders such as audiologists must be allowed to evaluate the cost versus the benefit of implementing hearing conservation programmes.

Existing programmes need realistic reviews to understand what works, for whom, and under what circumstances. This is key to evaluating the status of these programmes.

Nomfundo is a CARTA Cohort Six Graduate and a lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here.


Shortly after our tenth anniversary, celebrated last year, CARTA now revels in surpassing the mark of 100 PhD graduates!

CARTA has contributed to developing a vibrant African academy capable of leading world-class multidisciplinary research that positively impacts public and population health. Our goal is to strengthen the research ecosystem of African universities and support early career researchers to undertake their doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships on the continent and become internationally recognized research leaders, influencing society.

As we celebrate this milestone of exceeding 100 graduates, we will look at the contribution of our fellows and graduates to the research ecosystem in their institutions and Africa at large.

CARTA was started over a decade ago at a time when Africa was facing a challenge of PhD capacity. Opportunities for PhD training abroad were dwindling, and the existing faculty in the continent was ageing, signaling a more significant crisis. In 2006, APHRC officials kicked off a series of meetings with University leadership in Nairobi, which ultimately led to the formation of CARTA.

The founding directors had in mind creating a program that could build the next generation of African scholars and researchers. They were motivated by the fact that there was expertise scattered all over the continent. Their focus was to bring this together to create an experience where someone going through doctoral training anywhere in Africa would experience the same set of quality support and training that others got elsewhere.

Upon forming the consortium, CARTA sought to sustain a critical mass of highly trained African scholars at the PhD level, advance graduate training through institutionalizing CARTA innovations at African partner universities, and secure the future of CARTA graduates by mentoring them to become leaders in their research fields.

The promotion of research excellence best illustrates CARTA’s achievements through fellows and graduates who together have authored over 1147 articles in refereed journals. CARTA has maintained a pipeline of high-quality early career researchers on the continent and created supportive research environments in African partner institutions to enable the mainstreaming of CARTA’s innovations.

Many of the graduates trained through our program have achieved great successes in their careers in academia and research. We will have them share their experiences, lessons, challenges, and successes in the coming days and months. Besides, “CARTA 100 Graduates” celebrations will showcase the positive impact that CARTA graduates are making in their work while contributing to the growth of public and population health in Africa.

Thank you to all of our partners for believing in our fellows and supporting the next generation of researchers in Africa.

NB: Tweet with us about the CARTA graduates using the hashtag #CARTA100. 

It is the wish of every researcher to have access to funding for their work. While it is not always readily available, the first step to being successful at it is a well-written grant application. Frederick Oporia, (Cohort Ten Fellow, Makerere University), took us through what fundraising as an early career researcher entails.

What would you say is a good strategy for fundraising as an early career researcher?
What worked for me is assertiveness and persistence in writing. Looking out for any relevant calls is essential, and submitting the applications. Do not lose hope and energy if they are rejected. In the end, one of them will end up in your basket.

How would you advise an early career researcher struggling to find and retain funding to support their PhD project?
Applicants should not get deflated if any of their applications are rejected/not granted. It does not necessarily mean their work is not good enough. It may be that it was not among the interests of the grant call. Ride on the comments given for rejection and improve the writing and submit to other calls. But, essentially, they need to read and understand the interests of the grant they are applying for and align the application to those interests. Many promising studies are not funded simply because it was not their interest/area of focus.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, how do you think fundraising has changed for early career researchers? What are the challenges and opportunities you have seen emerge?
I notice that most calls for funding tended to be biased towards Covid-19. This is a challenge because most PhD fellows were already focused on their study areas that did not have Covid-19 as a component. However, the opportunities for one to align their research in the spaces of Covid-19 prevention exist and can improve one’s chances of winning such grants.

Do you have any tips for early career researchers on how to remain resilient and actively pursue their studies during a pandemic such as this?
They should not lose hope just in case any of their applications are rejected. I have also had some applications rejected, but I used those comments to improve, then I submitted to another call, and I won. They should be aggressively persistent. They should also avoid fear and thinking that they might not win. No work can be perfect. Keeping to yourself will not win any funding; trying a submission has the potential to win funding.

Finally, what mistakes should early career researchers avoid when fundraising?
They should not depend on only one source. They should make as many applications as possible. They should also avoid last-minute submissions, which usually lead to errors that the grant reviewers can only detect. They should read and understand the instructions of the grant call because evaluations are based on each instruction given, even before the technical review is conducted. Lastly, while many reviewers don’t necessarily consider the quality of the English used (if the call is in English), poor English is usually a turn-off for some reviewers. So, it is vital to have a friend review for you before you click that submit icon.

We are saddened to hear about the loss of Vartan Gregorian, the President of Carnegie Corporation of New York, which happened on April 15, 2021, in New York City.

Since our inception, Carnegie Corporation of New York has funded our work, fervently supporting us in advancing the career paths of early career researchers in Africa through doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships.

Dr. Gregorian distinguished himself as a historian and educator of repute who transformed the New York Library into a thriving center of culture and learning. Under his leadership, Carnegie Corporation formed the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, of which CARTA has been one of the recipients of this vision and support. The CARTA program consists of the University of Nairobi and Moi University (Kenya), Makerere University (Uganda), University of Malawi, Ibadan University and Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria), University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa), University of Rwanda, and the University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and other research institutions in Africa.

The investments made by the Carnegie Corporation through the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa have allowed us to produce tens of highly trained African scholars and seen us partner with institutions across the continent to strengthen research training and leadership at those institutions. CARTA partners are now contributing to strengthening the continent’s higher education sector by improving the training, retention, and research productivity of academics in public universities. We are indebted and eternally grateful for Dr. Gregorian’s work and philosophy of providing training, education, and culture as espoused by his words below.

“Today’s universities—along with our colleges, libraries, learned societies, and our scholars—have a great responsibility. More than ever, these institutions and individuals have a fundamental historical and social role to play in ensuring that as a society, we provide not just training but education, and not just education but culture as well.”

We offer our deepest sympathy to his family, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the many people whose lives he touched with his vision. May they all find comfort in the memory of his service and devotion to making the world a better place.

Statement by Catherine Kyobutungi and Sharon Fonn, CARTA Co-Directors. 

A one-day virtual workshop for Cohort Ten fellows’ supervisors took place on March 25, 2021 under the facilitation of the University of the Witwatersrand. The workshop, whose aim was to strengthen supervision capacity was attended by 25 supervisors drawn from the CARTA partner institutions. The discussions ranged from the supervision context in Africa, approaches to supervision, institutional policies on supervision, expectations of supervision and postgraduate literacies.

The workshop allowed the participants to reflect and engage holistically with the process and link their personal experiences to the learning and supervisory processes. We asked the session facilitator, Rajohane Matshedisho from the University of the Witwatersrand, to tell us more about how the workshop went.

As a virtual event, did it meet your expectations, and was the goal fulfilled?

My expectations of the virtual supervisors’ workshop were successfully met. We sustained and engaged with the participants for six hours. We met the goals of teasing out our notions and approaches to supervision, understanding the global supervision context, discussion barriers and enhancement to supervision, shifting from supervision as an industrial input-output model into an interactive institutional model, and outlining postgraduate literacies as part of supervision. I have been doing the workshop for the past four years at the Wits Centre for Learning, Teaching & Development (CLTD). Since the lockdown, I had to modify and adapt three supervision workshops for online platforms. CARTA was the fourth attempt, and it worked seamlessly well.

What do you think was the outcome of the workshop?

The result of the workshop was to allow supervisors to begin the process of introspection and reflection on their supervisory capacities and relationships. The workshop sought to suggest that research supervision is an embodied process mediated by aspects such as one’s cultural values, preferred learning and teaching styles, and past experiences of being a supervisee.

What does it mean for the supervisors to reflect on their supervision skills?

Supervision should not be seen only as a formal, formulaic set of steps to complete a dissertation or thesis. Instead, it should also be viewed as a constant process of transformation and evolution of the self as a supervisor. It is okay for supervisors to think on their toes and negotiate the supervisory relationship with their values, students, and co-supervisors. Moreover, supervision experiences differ from one student to another and from one phase to the other with the same student.