Ezekiel Nyaga, 28, is pursuing a career in atmospheric modelling in a master’s programme at the University of Nairobi.
His curiosity to understand how the science of the atmosphere works and its relationship to human life and the environment started when he was a small boy, growing up in Kuresoi, Nakuru County.
Having scored B in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary School Education at Jomo Kenyatta High School in 2009, he joined Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology to study a course in physical sciences (BSc Physics), graduating in 2015.
Afterwards, he secured a scholarship from Gandhi Smarak Nidhi Fund in 2018 to pursue a master’s programme in atmospheric modelling.
What is atmospheric modelling?
It’s a science that applies mathematical theories to generate predictable measurements (simulations) for analysis in air quality, air pollution, weather behavioural patterns and climate prediction.
By using atmospheric modelling, one can study air movement and possible air quality features such as distribution of air pollutants.
You can also predict changes in weather patterns and climate effects. An atmospheric modeller complements meteorologists in their work, which involves weather and climate forecast studies.
It also assists air quality experts to study and monitor pollutants’ behaviour and their movement in the air.
What made you study atmospheric modelling?
While in primary school, I noted that seasons were changing. Rains would sometimes be unpredictable, interfering with our farming.
I wondered why this was happening. In Class Six, one of our teachers introduced us to emerging issues of climate change, which he explained was gradually influencing the weather patterns.
I became interested in knowing more about these changes and how they were occurring. I wanted to know more about this monster called ‘climate change’. When I joined high school therefore, I concentrated on physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics, subjects that would go on to lead me to a career in atmospheric and environmental sciences.
I had a passion for theories of physics too, hence why I pursued a BSc in Physics at university, and then enrolled for a master’s degree in atmospheric modelling.
So far, what has been your step-by-step exposure to this field?
Last year, I participated in a training on urban air pollution modelling using a systematic model (ASAP HDM-4) which is applied in monitoring, evaluating and studying air pollution on urban highways.
The method uses programmed computer simulations to analyse the data collected. You then use the information to determine the level of air pollution.
During my undergraduate internship at the Kericho County’s Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, I developed a small wind turbine which can be used to generate electricity for domestic use as lighting.
I was also involved in setting up the system for biogas digesters. These two projects demonstrate how my career aims to promote clean energy to reduce atmospheric pollution globally.
Take us through what you do on a daily basis.
I am part of the air quality team at the Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology.
We conduct routine air sampling and then do analysis to determine the concentration of different elements in the air.
How would the community benefit from an atmospheric modeller?
I grew up in a rural village where almost every household depends on biomass and fossil fuel for domestic energy supply.
This is still the case in many parts of the country yet communities are still ignorant about the health risks associated with exposure to emission from these sources.
Exposure to outdoor and indoor pollution has been known to cause respiratory illnesses, lung cancer and pulmonary diseases.
This has increased my urge to study air quality in rural dwellings.
My aim is to come up with authentic research findings that can be vindicated, to educate the rural communities on pollution and mitigation measures which can help reduce illnesses.
This will reduce costs incurred for treatment and ensure a healthy and vibrant population which is economically productive.
How is Kenya faring in research?
There is lack of adequate support for research in the country on pollution dangers, leading to inconclusive scientific data. Consequently, this has affected the way the government responds to the problem.
To resolve this, the government should provide sufficient funds and partner with other players to support research activities since through research, we can be informed about the extent of human exposure to pollutants.
We should conserve and preserve the environment as a measure of mitigating for pollutants and emissions.
Also, Kenyans should be ready to embrace pollution control measures such as using clean energy.
What role can your skills play in environmental law implementation?
Information on air quality modelling can advise the need for the national and county governments to create laws that will regulate domestic and industrial practices, and also policies for control, mitigation and monitoring of the levels of pollutants.
What can you tell fellow youth who would like to study your career?
Atmospheric modelling is one of the emerging careers confronting global socio-economic challenges, the intention being to leave the earth in one piece for everybody’s habitation.
Like many physical science-oriented courses, a background in physics, chemistry and mathematics is mandatory.
Have goals, identify what you are good at, and if atmospheric modelling is the career for you, then go ahead and pursue it.
What is your dream after completing your master’s degree?
I’m oriented towards research. My aim is to work with research institutions as I look forward to my PhD.
I also intend to incorporate climate effects on food security within my research studies.
I believe the country belongs to youths. They should embrace education and come up with innovations that provide solutions to different challenges that face our communities.
That’s the best way to gradually change our African society.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
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Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.