From the look of her face, Sheila Malingu would pass for a shy high school teen. But when she opens up, inside this lady dressed in a white T-shirt and black pants is a calm, yet brilliant and confident persona.
Malingu, 20, is this year’s winner of the Berkeley Prize, a travel fellowship award. She is a second year student at Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi, studying a course in Architecture.
She emerged the 2nd best among four winners of the essay prize competition organised by University of Berkeley in California, USA.
The first born of three siblings says she wanted to become a computer engineer like her father but her career changed at 12 years when she won the ‘Draw an advert campaign’ in 2005 while still in primary school. Malingu says: “I decided to pursue a career in Architecture after becoming the national winner.
” Born and raised in Kyamugorani, Mbarara District. Malingu is daughter to Mr Charles L. Malingu, an IT specialist, and Ms Miriam Malingu. Malingu attended Kabaterine Memorial School and Mbarara SDA Primary School, and later Mary Hill High School before joining Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi.
The essay “Adoptable Options for Kampala Capital City Authority,” which has brought her the joy she possess, suggests solutions for improving livelihoods in Kampala slums.
Her proposal highlights the health challenges in Kampala slums like “flying toilets” which are a major cause of disease.
The flying toilets are developed from thin polythene bags inflated with waste normally thrown out at night on streets and water trenches.
“I am inspired by the comfort of everyone in the places we live and stay,” says Malingu.
She says her journey to win the travel fellowship award started while in her first year at university.
“It was given to us as a class assignment but I didn’t make it on the first test,” says Malingu. However, it was in September last year when she gave it her second shot when she wrote an essay proposal for the ‘Architect and a healthful environment’
At this stage, Malingu’s proposal emerged the 15th out of the 144 competing suggestions. She says only 38 students, including her, made it to the next stage of the competition.
At the second stage, “we wrote the final proposals under the same topic around January 2014, where the finalists were picked for the travel fellowship. “I emerged the 2nd globally,” Malingu asserts with a wide smile.
On June 2, 2014, Malingu left for Portland in Oregon, United States to observe the Sustainable City Year Programme (SCYP) at the University of Oregon. She is also expected to participate in the 51st International Making Cities Livable Conference (IMCL) 2014.
“My goal is to become one of the foremost, practising advocates of the environmental and physical architectural planning in East Africa in the next five years, with particular reference to Uganda,” says Malingu as she nods her dreadlocked head.
Upon her return from the one-month trip in the US, Malingu wants to meet the KCCA Executive Director, Ms Jennifer Musisi, and share with her, a wealth of experience and knowledge she will have amassed while at the conference.
Malingu says: “I commend Ms Musisi for the good work she has done for Kampala but I would like to share with her the ideas I will have learnt in Portland and see how we can implement them here for the betterment of our city, Kampala.”
Malingu also wants to bridge the gap between the technocrats and students with proposals like hers.
“I want to organise a conference for Architecture students both at Uganda Martyrs University and Makerere University to disseminate some ideas together with having career guidance from architectural practitioners who will in return learn from us,” she says.
Malingu says she is aware that proper use of the environmental resources is already key in development and a livelihood sustainability issue around the world.
In the coming years, the issue is going to be important particularly for East Africa because of the discovery of commercially exploitable quantities of oil and gas in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
“This will require dynamic and adequately informed environmental architects to deal with soil and water conservation issues,” says Malingu, adding that even the high population growth in the region means that new habitation and civil work designs which will become a major development strategy.
Despite Malingu’s successes, she recounts some challenges encountered like the lack of school fees while in her Primary Four and Five when her father had also gone back to Makerere University to undertake his master’s degree in IT. However, she is quick to say that the father is her role model for having sent her to school together with her two siblings.
Malingu is also proud of herself as a young Ugandan woman who has so far achieved something. “The moment an opportunity presents itself, approach it head-on. Do not think about the outcome because you never know whether it can be positive or negative,” she says in her advice to fellow youth.
Charles Malingu, Sheila’s father, is very proud of her daughter. “My daughter thinks beyond her age and all my children write very well, I keep encouraging them,” says Mr Malingu.
ABOUT THE BERKELEY PRIZE
The winners of the 11th Annual Berkeley Prize Travel fellowship competition were announced by Professor Raymond Lifchez, the chair of the Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence recently.
The essay contest in three stages is open to all current full registered students in the undergraduate Architecture degree programme. It also includes diploma students in accredited schools of architecture worldwide.
The competition was established in the department of California, Berkeley in 1998 to promote the investigation of architecture as a social art.
Each year, the prize committee selects a topic important to the understanding and interaction of people and the built world that becomes the focus of the essay competition. This year’s topic is: “The Architect and the Healthful Environment”
The Committee possesses a question on the website: www.berkeleyprize.org and the related topic where architecture students throughout the world are invited to submit a 500-word essay proposal responding to the question.
Malingu becomes the second Architecture student from Uganda Martyrs University to win the prize after Bryans Mukasa won it in 2012.