20 May 2024

On behalf of the government and in collaboration with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida, the Department of Mathematics and Linköping University create opportunities for life-changing transformations for both individuals and the world. Jennifer Chepkorir from Kenya is one of the doctoral students who, through her hard work and high personal goals, has created change for both herself and the future.

Jennifer Chepkorir
Jennifer hopes that she can inspire more women in Kenya not to fear the subject and the male-dominated arena. Carina Stahre
Kenya, in East Africa, is an exotic country that attracts many tourists each year for its magnificent views and rich wildlife. However, it is also a country with many challenges in the form of inequality, corruption, and extreme weather due to climate change, which affects access to food and water. In Kenya, almost half of the population lives below the poverty line, and education is far from guaranteed.

Collaboration with Sida for an Equal and Sustainable World

As part of achieving the global goals for an equal and sustainable world, Sida works on behalf of the government to assist countries like Kenya. Since 2007, the Department of Mathematics has been involved in several collaborative projects coordinated by the International Science Programme (ISP) and funded by Sida. Jennifer Chepkorir is one of those who got the chance to undertake her doctoral studies at Linköping University. After five years of studies, combining education at home with her research in applied mathematics at the university, she has completed her dissertation and is ready to return to Kenya.

The Goal to Become Independent and Self-Sufficient

Jennifer decided as a child that she would become independent and self-sufficient, but the road there has not been straightforward. She talks about a childhood in a small village where poverty was prevalent. Her parents were small-scale farmers with the sole goal of keeping the family fed for the day. As the firstborn, Jennifer had to take responsibility early to live up to the role model she was expected to be. Like many other girls in Kenya, she learned early on to cook and do household chores. Primary school is free in Kenya, and higher education is subsidized, but despite this, few pursue education, and many women become housewives as early as 13 years old. The price of defying cultural norms is high, and Jennifer has faced significant challenges that are hard for a Westerner to comprehend. Not knowing if there is food for the day, being a lone woman trying to support herself in an unequal society based on corruption, or traveling to another continent without her child because she believes so strongly that she can provide a better life for her child when she returns one day.

-Education plays an important role in building confidence and independence in life. Through education, one can acquire knowledge and skills that make it easier to get a job and support oneself. It also gives a sense of control over one’s life, which can be invaluable, says Jennifer.

Applied Mathematics at Linköping University

However, Jennifer's vision has never wavered, and despite tough setbacks, she chose to continue her education. Over time, the rewards came. In 2017, she was named the second-best student at the University of Nairobi and Science in Mathematics. It was also in connection with this that she came into contact with the ISP and the Sida-funded project that gave her the opportunity to do her doctoral studies in applied mathematics at Linköping University. Here, she has researched for five years and has now completed her dissertation “Regularization Methods for Solving the Cauchy Problem for Elliptic and Degenerate Elliptic Equations.” Her research is based on mathematical calculations that use various methods to identify unsolved problems outside the visible spectrum. Even though the methods are difficult for a layperson to understand, she explains that applied mathematics might be the most understandable form of mathematics because it is applied to real-life problems. And this is also why applied mathematics is so important.

-Mathematics is everything. To solve problems. To learn how we can handle problems and challenges in real life.

Opportunities at Linköping University and the Future

This spring, Jennifer finally graduated with her doctorate and returned home with the goal of starting to work and sharing her knowledge with others. Jennifer notes that few women pursue education in Kenya, and even fewer are interested in technical subjects. She hopes that she can inspire more women in Kenya not to fear the subject and the male-dominated arena. The dream of independence and self-sufficiency is no longer just a dream. She has now also earned a doctorate in applied mathematics and is ready to pass on her knowledge to younger generations. A happier and stronger woman than ever before.

Sida’s work in Kenya
International Science Programme

Short facts

Short facts Jennifer

Name: Jennifer Chepkorir Age: 34
Family: Son at home in Kenya
Home Country: Kenya
Interests: Cooking, reading
PhD in: Applied Mathematics
Dream Destination: Santorini
Dreams of: Returning home, getting a good job, reuniting with my son
What Swedes should learn from other cultures: Interact more with each other

This is Sida

Sida stands for the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and is Sweden's aid agency. Sida works to reduce poverty in the world, on behalf of the Swedish parliament and government. The activities are funded by Swedish taxpayers. The goal of Sida’s work is to contribute to better living conditions for individuals living in oppression and poverty. With the vision of every person's right and opportunity to live a dignified life, Sida creates opportunities that bring about change for the world and the future.

Read more about collaboration in Mathematics with low income countries 

Read more about Applied mathematics and MAI

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