For Mgcini “Keith” Phuthi ’19, spending a summer in Africa was more than a trip back to his home continent after graduation. It was an opportunity to directly impact national policy regarding education in the country of Sierra Leone.
Originally from Zimbabwe, Phuthi, who majored in physics and minored in mechanical engineering, was looking for a particular combination of purposes in his third experience with the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI): a return to Africa and a chance to explore his passion for education. “I initially thought I would have to choose one or the other, but when I talked to the [MISTI-Africa] program manager about what I could do in Africa, he mentioned the Sierra Leone opportunity.”
Around the world and back again
Ari Jacobovits, the managing director of the MISTI-Africa program, was equally thrilled to match up a student with his ideal project. “What I try to do with every interested student is sit down with them, see what interests them, and build from there. When I met Keith, he obviously had a lot of experience in Africa, being from Zimbabwe, but he also had a particular passion for education,” says Jacobovits. “It’s exciting to facilitate interactions such as Keith’s between the southern region and the western region, thousands of miles apart.”
This was an ideal chance to get hands-on for Phuthi, who often asks himself how to drive higher qualities into educational systems, particularly in regions where science interest and exposure is low. “I felt they could serve as a model for other countries,” he says of Sierra Leone, “and I wanted to be a part of that.”