Senior Programme Specialist (Monitoring) at the UNICEF Headquarters in New York, Dr Boniface Francis Kalanda told us about why getting a MSc Public Health (Health Systems Management) via distance learning from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine was challenging, but worthwhile; the strong relationships he made whilst studying, and his world of work at UNICEF.
Dr Kalanda is both an alumnus of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), where he gained his PhD in 2004. He expressed how good it felt to be an alumnus of both of these institutions and went on to explain the three major reasons that led him to study at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “First, I enjoy public health. I had interacted with faculty from [the School] during my studies at LSTM and during my time at the Ministry of Health in Malawi. They were inspiring people. The second is that [the School] has a very good reputation internationally as one of the best places to study public health. The third reason is that having compared all institutions that offer a Masters in Public Health through distance learning, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine was the best in terms of structure, course content, flexibility and support, both directly and indirectly”.
Studying a Master’s degree via distance learning was not without its challenges. Dr Kalanda had to continually motivate himself to keep studying in the evenings, after work when he was tired as well as at the weekend. In order to keep pushing himself to overcome these challenges, Dr Kalanda implemented time management strategies and focused on “the ultimate prize”, which was an MSc from the School. His hard work payed off and he managed to finish his studies in the minimum possible time of two years.
Dr Kalanda formed solid relationships whilst studying, some of the colleagues he interacted with have become his go to friends for both professional and personal advice. He explained that: “Students from all over the world easily bond through the “Black Board” at [the School], they ask questions and provide answers when others want to be supported. [The School] provides an opportunity for professional networking.”
When asked how his degree from the School had helped in his career, he told us: “In my world of work at UNICEF, health is always the largest component. Health systems is always the trickiest area to improve in resource poor countries. My degree helped me to have a better understanding of my area of work. As a staff member that works in the area of programme planning, monitoring, reporting, and evaluation, my degree has helped me to provide better support to my colleagues who work in immunisation, polio eradication, child health, maternal health and health systems.”
One of the proudest moments in his career was a recent promotion at UNICEF, in which he believes his degree from the School played a part. Another proud moment that he shared was when he used some of his learning guides from the School to conduct participatory monitoring for a rural community, which led to the building of a “waiting shelter” for pregnant women through self help efforts from that community.
His final thoughts on studying at the School were: “Having done other postgraduate courses before [the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine], I can confidently speak for the quality and value of the MSc course at [the School].”
Thank you Dr Kalanda for sharing your experience and demonstrating that distance does not have to be a barrier to studying at the School.