How did I end up in Mzuzu you might ask. Well, I’m an optometrist with incredibly itchy feet. Having spent 3 months travelling South America and then a year living and travelling in Australia, I would be lying if I said that living in Galway and practising as a regular optometrist excited me. A good friend of mine that I went to college with had been living and working as a lecturer in Malawi since February and in April she posted the link to a job in Mzuni (Mzuzu University) on Facebook. A skype interview followed and I was offered a job lecturing optometry in Mzuni.
Mzuzu is the third largest city in Malawi which has one of only 3 public (i.e. funded by the government) universities in Malawi. The university itself is about 5km outside of the town located in a district called Luwinga.
Malawi, along with many other African countries have an underdeveloped health system and optometry is generally unheard of (eg, our department went for dinner (all 5 of us) and the acting head said “You are sitting at a table with all the optometrists in Malawi). Unfortunately many millions of people around the world are functionally blind due to uncorrected refractive error, therefore they are unable to lead full lives. As optometry stands in Malawi, it is underdeveloped and ICEE along with it’s partners set up the optometry programme as a means to make optometric services more available to Malawians. This August will see the first optometrists graduate from Mzuni and go into practise. The programme is currently staffed by expats (as there are no optometrists in the country!) but the aim is, in the future, that previous students will return to lecture. Having an opportunity to be part of exciting developments like this is something that I could not turn down.
Lecturing has always held an interest for me but having no masters/PhD meant that in the Ireland/the UK it would not be possible. This gives me the opportunity to try my hand to it before committing to 2 years masters! Those of you who know me would know that I can be a bit of a commitment phobe! Hence, I find myself, a mere seven months after returning home, leaving on a jet plane and travelling to the only continent I have yet to visit- Africa.