For Mariah Peggy Nabunya, becoming the first female guild president of Victoria University Kampala didn’t come as a surprise; she has tasted leadership through much of her high school life. And being the first born in her family, leadership comes naturally.
In this exclusive Q&A interview, Nabunya talks to healthnews.co.ug about her life, choosing to participate in student politics, choosing between a degree in medicine and public health, life at Victoria University and her life a public health practitioner. READ ON.
Briefly tell our readers about your life and why you choose to participate in student politics at Victoria University?
My name is Maria Peggy Nabunya doing a bachelors degree in science in public health here at Victoria University. I have a television show which used to air on NBS TV called Girl Talk. It now airs on Citizen Television in Kenya.
I did a little bit of my primary education at Kampala Parents’ School before joining my parents in United Arab Emirates (UAE). I later returned and joined Agha Khan to complete O’level and later St Lawrence Crown City for A’level.
In O’level I was junior house captain and in A’level I was the head girl. Leadership has always been with me considering that I am the first born at home.
So when I joined University, there are people who saw leadership qualities in me last year and they talked me into it. I was made vice guild president and here we are.
The opportunity presented itself and I was not going to turn it down. I was ready for leadership but I had not thought about it until I was approached. To be guild president is a challenge I embrace.
Does being the first female guild president of Victoria University come with any pressure and how are you dealing with it?
No, there is no pressure but a blessing for me as a feminist. It is important for me to see young women doing big things. I intend to use this blessing. My sleeves are rolled up. I don’t feel pressurized.
I feel like I am representing women not only female students at Victoria University but other girls and women who may look up to me.
How do you intend to balance being a student and guild president?
Well, the key thing here is planning and being disciplined. I can juggle all of this if I am organized. This can only work if I plan well with my cabinet. I have a cabinet of nine people.
We need to be focused on our books because primarily we are here to study. The only way we can do that is to be ready and organized prior to anything else.
We need to organize ourselves and activities – say this is what we intend to do this semester and we hand-it in so that when the semester begins all we do is follow up so that it doesn’t eat up our study time.
Tell us about the faculty of health sciences at Victoria University and what it means to study science in public health?
My faculty, the health sciences faculty, I want to believe is the best faculty. No offense to other faculties but the reason is that this faculty is very serious in the sense that at the end of the day you are going to be dealing with people’s lives.
In our faculty we have midwives, nurses, nutritionists and public health practitioners like me. So we have a big task on our hands. We are lucky we have a skill lab for people in nursing and midwifery. They are able to practice what they study.
Our faculty gives us a lot of exposure. For example for our internships, we are taken to places that really apply to what we are studying. The lecturers we have are experienced.
Public health is about community and also individual health. We look at preventive health. Public health practitioners try to reduce the burden of medical practitioners.
In the instance of malaria, public health practitioners reduce the burden by preventing malaria from happening – asking people to cut bushes, sleeping in mosquito nets etc.
All this communication you see the campaigns like cancer run, are done and designed by public health practitioners.
What inspired you to choose and study science in public health after studying Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics in A’level, you could have chosen medicine or pharmacy?
I am not settled. I like to be up and about. I thought that if I did medicine, I would be restricting myself to the hospital. Public health allows me to be everywhere.
What has been your experience as a student of public health?
I have been exposed to many things. When I came to do this course, what I expected is just about 2 percent of what I have learnt.
It is a whole of things. It is beyond just going to the community and people what their problems are and figured out a way forward. It’s more that.
There is disease control, surveillance and all of that keeps me on my toes. It has equipped me with so much knowledge.
It is a three year course but I feel like if given a public health job I can execute it properly. This course has allowed me to speak in public.
What are some of the pressing public health issues that need to be addressed in our communities that you observed as a student of public health?
The issues I see in the community, number one – waste management. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) has done an amazing job putting in place dustbins, sweeping the city but I think the problem is still with us as citizens.
We don’t have that culture of being cautious about waste. And it is because of this waste that we get other issues like diseases.
Right now I am planning with my friends to come up with something about waste management in Kampala.
Another issue I see in our community is lack of funds for public health project to be implemented.
What is Victoria University doing practically to positively influence public health especially at a community level?
We are taught to be very original. We have a very big policy on plagiarism. You cannot steal other people’s material. We are a research based University therefore students are encouraged to do their own research.
Ugandans don’t have a reading culture but public health gives you that. You like it or not you have to read in order to make good research.
We have different public health outdoor outreach programs that we conduct as a University. We do a lot of things, CSR, that help us get resources to go to communities.
Now that you are guild president, how do you plan to deploy the skills and knowledge you have acquired from this University to the public benefit?
Well, I am already doing some of these things. A few friends and I started an NGO and it reaches out to young girls and women. We tackle health related issues. We are officially launching next year.
We look at the health aspects of girls in schools. We are looking at emphasizing mindset change. As you know mindset is a very big thing. Most of the things I do are facilitated by the knowledge I have acquired here at Victoria University.
As a woman and a health services provider, how do you plan to use your position to empower women and the health challenges they face?
First of all, I think, I am already doing this on my television show – Girl Talk. We talk about everything related to young women – the decisions we make, health wise and otherwise.
I am very well aware of the things that girls go through and the things we are exposed to. In my show, these are things we talk about – early motherhood, abstinence, self reliance, working hard and other issues.
I meat mother and say our kids are watching you show and it is helping. People call me to appreciate the work we are doing.