Profile Lecturer - Mr. Sammy Matara

By Wreford Momanyi and Evans Chelal

Who is Mr. Matara?
Mr. Matara is a Graduate Assistant at the department of Geospatial Engineering and Space Technology in the University of Nairobi, with ambitions of becoming a full time lecturer. He holds a First Class Honors in Geospatial Engineering, a Second Level Specializing Masters in 'Navigation and Related Applications' from Politecnico di Torino (Polytechnic University of Turin), Italy where he graduated with an honors in 2014 and is currently pursuing a PhD in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at the University of Nairobi. He is married to Ruth Muchira and both have been blessed with a beautiful daughter.

Why opt to lecture?
(With a broad smile) Mr. Matara draws his strong love for lecturing from the words, "teachers never grow old". He insists that daily interaction with young and ambitious minds is a path of continuous growth and learning since one is always up to date with current trends, information and technology. He further compares some of his lecturers who seem to be aging gracefully.

"I found myself in engineering"
Says Mr. Matara. After bursting into laughter he admitted that engineering wasn't his first choice. His heart was in Medicine and Computer Science which he missed narrowly, and was called for BSc (General) which, back then, they nicknamed, 'Bachelor of Stoning Cars (BSC)'. After hearing of a new course, that was rumored marketable, at the School of Engineering, he applied for inter-faculty to the department of Geospatial Engineering. He always told his peers that he wanted to lecture, contrary to the dreams of many engineering students. His interests and passion in geospatial and surveying grew in leaps and bounds. Now, he doesn't regret his choice. He also shared with his classmates, back then, that he would become the President of the Republic of Kenya. If he did say he wanted to become a lecturer, and now he is, can we safely conclude he is the next president? Time will tell but remember the name.

What is your greatest success?
Mr. Matara prides in being the second Kenyan in his area of specialization and the only one based in Kenya. He also made his first million at the age of 27, after getting a consultancy with the UNHabitat and Regional Centre for Mapping Resources for Development (RCMD) to train surveyors on Geospatial technology in Upper Nile State in South Sudan. He has also received international recognition and has undertaken major projects like the Continuous Assessment Stations in Rwanda as a result of his specialization.

Are the engineering courses at the University of Nairobi at the desired level?
Mr. Matara agreed that much had changed in the field of survey; better tools and more use of software. However, he strongly feels the university is not doing enough in equipping the department of geospatial engineering with the modern machines/equipment necessary to train the university graduates as compared to other world class universities of its caliber, who are then branded 'half-baked' graduates when they leave for the industry. He insists that some practical concepts are taught in theory whereas equipment are hired for short periods of time, which tends to be expensive in the long run. Mr. Matara, however, showers praises to the University for having among the best and experienced staff in the country but further challenges the university to seek more collaborations and partnership with the industry players. For instance collaboration with equipment manufacturers and other engineering corporations in order to boost the quality of graduates from this great university. He adds that under-staffing, number of books, a need for modern laboratories and lack of enough space to accommodate the evergrowing number of students remains to be a key issue that ought to be addressed with urgency.

Besides teaching, what else do you do?
Mr. Matara spends time with family and a very passionate farmer. He is also a fervent reader with Napoleon Hills's book, "Think and Grow Rich" laying at his desk.

His take on GIS
GIS is a very important tool used not only in engineering but also almost in all sectors. It provides data that that may be used for any survey or application desired. For instance in Education, Security, Medical: disease control and prevention and also in telemedicine - by mapping the body part to be operated and a robot may perform the operation. Energy sector: Mapping of all power connections in the national grid e.g. the one recently performed by Kenya power. Farming: in large scale farming- using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) to spray doses to a farm in specific areas and precision agriculture. Building: fitted in excavators and computes the area that has been excavated and give feedback. Navigation: Mapping of streets e.g. Google maps and also politically, to analyze progress of promised projects like lighting, medical services etc.

GIS hold the future and key to so many opportunities and it is not only for geospatial engineers, but anyone can learn via the open-source GIS. Very soon each one will be required to learn and have an experience with GIS since this is the information age.

Geospatial Engineering registration
The Engineers Board of Kenya and Institute of Engineers of Kenya has been too rigid to embrace change and development. With the engineering fields diversifying and high specialization, EBK ought to accept and accredit the courses by what is taught and not the name of the course. That even after course review after the EBK recommendations, EBK does not still approve of Geospatial Engineering. He insists that surveying (geospatial) is a key aspect before any construction and cites countries where surveying certifications is a key requirement for civil engineers.

Parting shot
Any person ought to discover him/herself first and live up to his/her dreams by keeping the right company. He encourages young people to read and not to confine oneself to just his/her field alone wide but also learn from other peoples experiences. To accept advice at all times from friends and mentors but let the final decision be yours and yours solely.

He adds that students ought to be focused and disciplined not only in their academics but be all rounded. Have time for fun and engage in games and also not to forget that they shall not be students forever. 'Whosoever finds a wife finds a good thing, and finds favor in the Lord.' He admits to have met his lovely wife at the same department, but a year behind him. "This might be the place you find your better half," he concludes urging us to graduate with two degrees. On a light note.