Berverly Nyakutsikwa is from the capital city of Zimbabwe, Harare, where she has both studied and worked. She first heard about IHE Delft from one of her lecturers, Dr. Makurira, who did his MSc at the Institute. When she was searching for a Master’s Degree in a water-related field, it came up a lot.
What made her choose IHE Delft over other universities? Berverly: ‘’I chose IHE Delft because of its reputation as a leading research Institute in water research. I had been looking at other universities, but IHE Delft was highly spoken of and I received recommendations from some of the leading water professionals I have had the chance to talk to. I also researched on the Internet and the course content was highly appealing. Although I already had a place at the University of Surrey and the University of Leeds, I had to turn down those offers in favour of IHE Delft. Part of my decision was also due to the history of water in the Netherlands. I mean, how does a country survive under sea level? That’s fascinating! So I thought to myself: “If you want to learn about water, go to a country that could possibly be underwater, but still manages to stay dry.”
Other benefits of coming to the Netherlands I have realised since I arrived, besides the rich water systems knowledge, is the culture, which is accommodating. When Berverly first arrived she experienced something very different from her home country. Here the people are more very honest and abrupt, whereas back home it’s not like that. At first, it was a bit of a shock but now she is used to it and she appreciates it.’’
About problems in her home country: ‘’Firstly, some areas do not have water from taps. Where I stay for 5 years we have not had municipal water from taps. There are many reasons why this could be, including that the water treatment plants cannot meet the rapidly-increasing demand, a large amount of the water is lost in the distribution system, due to dilapidated infrastructure and the mismanagement of resources. Lack of water drives people to look for their own resources and unsafe unprotected water sources, combined with inadequate sanitation, spell disaster. In 2008, there was an outbreak of cholera which killed more than 4,000 people and I do not believe that so many people should die from a water-related disease as a consequence of unsafe water and poor sanitation. I am happy I decided to specialise in Sanitary Engineering because it has highlighted the extent of the relationship between sanitation and public health.
Secondly, we suffered a drought for the past three years and now there are floods. In December, because of the rain, parts of the oldest suburb of Harare, Mbare, were flooded and due to the poor drainage systems, cases of typhoid were reported and some people died from it. Drainage again seems linked to sanitation and ultimately public health and safety. So, because we don’t have good drainage, we are involuntarily cultivating these diseases. If we can adequately plan, implement and repair our drainage systems, we also eliminate the diseases.’’
On her motivation to study in the field of water: ‘’I study civil engineering because I wanted to be part of a solution and I believe that engineering can help achieve that. Working in water puts me closer to that goal because water is life. I have been working for a water and wastewater engineering firm and I have been exposed to working with different organisations of various capacities on different water projects. I have come to realise that we need to manage the precious resource of water while adequately dealing with wastewater. But what is wastewater? Is it really wastewater or is it a resource that can be harnessed for reuse? I was privileged enough to visit the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Centre in Santa Clara, California where they recycle treated wastewater water from the wastewater treatment plant. After purifying it, the end result is purer than bottled water. Ultimately they use the water for groundwater recharge. From this experience, my interest in water kept growing.
About the teaching style at IHE Delft. ‘’It is very different from what I was used to, but because of the technology, it makes it easier to get along. The materials are well-prepared, they are accessible (in advance on the internet), the printed handbooks allow you to follow in class and the library resources are a huge help. The lecturers have worked in the field, so what they talk about relates to their practical experience and is not just theoretical.’’
Goals when she finish her study: Berverly’s goals are still a bit unclear but she would like to continue working in capacity building and training, so she can share what she has learned with others. She hopes she can possibly adapt some of the lessons learned in her design work and become more innovative in problem solving using technologies available back home. Berverly also would not mind working abroad if she was given the opportunity, but first, she would like to give back to her home country.
Beverly elaborates on her first week. ‘’It was kind of bad because I got sick as soon as I arrived, so it was not the best of times. But I was received very well – very hospitable community in Delft. It has been an interesting journey getting to know the other students. I especially liked how we started off the programme with the Libra game that helped me connect with people that are not in my class.’’
On life in Delft: ‘’I love it! The first thing I noticed was the quantity of water (canals everywhere) and the bicycle culture. Back home there is more of a car culture and it’s not very normal to find the majority of people commuting to work, or school on bikes. I have so far visited Rotterdam and I saw the Erasmus Bridge and Euromast.
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