From African slum to graduation: uni celebrates second amazing journey

A Kenyan who spent most of his life in two of Africa’s most notorious slums will receive his masters degree with distinction at The University of Manchester today (13 Dec).

Salim Mohammed has followed in the footstep of his friend Sammy Gitau by making the remarkable journey from Mathare slum, then to Kibera slum to graduate at the University’s renowned Institute for Development Policy and Management.

Following his degree success, he will start in a senior post in an international NGO and will be based in East Africa.

Salim’s graduation follows Sammy’s story, which made the headlines across the world on December 13 2007 – exactly three years ago today.

Salim was abandoned by his mother and spent the first four years of his life on the streets of Nairobi with his grandmother, a vegetable hawker.

When he turned five, he was sent to an orphanage in Mathare where he later became inspired to help other children like himself.

At 16, Salim led a sports programme involving over 2,000 young people and after graduating at high school, became an HIV/AIDS educator in Mathare where today, 20 percent of all residents are HIV positive.

In 2001, he helped found Carolina for Kibera (CFK), an international, NGO which fights abject poverty and helps prevent violence through community-based development.

Kibera is thought to be one of the largest slums in Africa. Families of up to 5 often sleep in tiny shacks with mud walls, corrugated roof, and a dirt or concrete floor.

There is little electricity or running water – and political and communal violence is widespread.

CFK was named a Time Magazine and Gates Foundation “Hero of Global Health” in 2005.

Salim said:” Sammy had a lot of influence on my thoughts in terms of coming to Manchester - though it’s something I really felt would help me in my work.

”I’m sure the experience will also help me channel my energy more effectively.

“It’s so difficult sometimes to separate academic theory and practice- but I think it’s important to understand how one can complement the other.”

He added: “My year in Manchester has been fantastic and I hope it will enable me to go from strength to strength and make some impact in Africa.

“I would also like to thank my Programme Director and tutor, Dr Paul Barry, Nikki Banks, a PhD student who has been very supportive to me, and my friends and course colleagues at IDPM.”

Dr Barry said: “It’s been a privilege and a delight to be able to support Salim in this part of his life journey.

“His substantial life experience in managing development projects, including Carolina for Kibera, qualified him uniquely to follow the MSc in Management and Implementation of Development Projects (MSc MIDP).

“He’s a remarkable person, tremendously engaged, who cares hugely about his fellow students and fellow man.

“Congratulations to him for his well deserved distinction.

“But this is by no means the end of his journey – and I am certain he will go on to do great things wherever he works.”

Notes for editors

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University of Manchester
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