A Vancouver-based Ph.D. student in Occupational & Environmental Hygiene, Occupational Therapist Bojosi Gamontle grew up in Botswana as the oldest of four children. She was brought up by her mother till the age of nine and then was under the care of various relatives, close and distant, including her great-grandfather, uncles, aunt. She says, “In today’s terms one would say it was not a stable childhood, be that as it may, but I learned survival skills and learned to fend for myself and to take care of others. Out of these basic skills of survival came resilience and knowledge that I was responsible for my life and have to “do something about it!”
After going through the public education system in Botswana, Bojosi moved to Australia to study for her first degree – Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (B.OT) after which she worked in Botswana for a few years as an Occupational Therapist. She then decided to venture into broader research and policy work and searched for a scholarship for about two years and got a Fulbright Scholarship, and went and did a Master’s Degree in the US, to move back to Botswana and then eventually to Canada.
“Living in my country and three others have afforded me an opportunity to introspect about my life, about my country and the continent of Africa.”
“Living in my country and three others have afforded me an opportunity to introspect about my life, about my country and the continent of Africa. I have met many friends from different cultures and countries and this has taught me to understand myself better as a human being and to be understanding of other people rather than judging them for whatever reason,” she adds.
One of the main reasons why Bojosi chose to do Occupational Therapy was because of her uncle, had disabilities and in her then young mind, she believed she needed to choose a career that would be beneficial to someone. Sadly, her uncle passed away before she completed her B.OT, but she still went ahead and practiced as an Occupational Therapist because she loved doing clinical work and working with patients whether it was assisting them in getting an injured hand to work again or helping a little boy with cerebral palsy to strengthen his muscles and begin to walk.
She informs, “Occupational Hygiene is now the work I will do for the rest of my career simply because of the breadth of the field. I am almost done with my Ph.D. and although it has been challenging, I have learned a great deal about protecting the health of workers and I am looking forward to hitting the ground running this coming year.”
“One of my memorable milestones was in fact when I began to realise that doing a Ph.D. was one aspect of my life and I began to endeavour to live a more balanced life.”
Bojosi feels the challenge of producing original work because you are creating something that no one has before, no matter how little, it can be daunting to have very little certainty, and having to keep reiterating some aspects of your work can be exhausting and sometimes discouraging. However, looking at her journey retrospectively and from where she is at currently, the challenges she faced have taught her to keep going even if it’s just taking one step at a time. She says, “One of my memorable milestones was in fact when I began to realise that doing a Ph.D. was one aspect of my life and I began to endeavour to live a more balanced life.”
Bojosi has written a brief e-book, Scholarships For Africans, about Masters and Ph.D. scholarship search for African students when she, in fact, had absolutely no time to do anything else let alone write a book, however small. Following receiving a scholarship for her Master’s degree, she increasingly received emails from different countries within Africa, thanks to the internet, requesting information on how they could apply for scholarships.
“I received at least one person per month asking this same question, so I figured the best solution would be to write a brief e-book, accessible via amazon kindle for the price of a latte and a muffin. That’s how the book came about. When someone sends information, I just send them the link,” she adds.
As someone who juggles several hats at one time, what is her advice to young women?
“Prioritise,” she says, “Put first things first. Everything is important but it is not equally important. If you put what is highly important first, everything else will fall into place. I suppose it’s not an easy thing to teach, it is one of those experiential things where after you have gone around the same cycle for a while and you serendipitously get out of it, you realise… ‘Oh that’s what that was!’”
In the future, Bojosi wants to keep doing the things she does now, just on a larger scale: “Occupational Health research and policy work on an international level, global ministry, global business, walking and teaching women across the globe on taking charge of your life despite circumstances.”
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