The International Professional Recognition Council (IPRC), hosted by the Southern African Research Management Association (SARIMA) and supported by all the Research Management Associations in Africa are collaborating with the African Jobs Board (https://africa.edujobs.com/?locale=en) to promote research management and the Professional Recognition Programme for research management through the Jobs Board Blog.
The latest blog post shared the professional journey of one of our SARIMA members who recently were recognised as a Research Management Professional (RMP).
Meet Mandla Tirivavi from the Africa University in Zimbabwe.
Like most research managers and administrators in Africa, Mandla had no professional research management training or qualification. Her career journey took several turns before she found herself in her current role. Starting off as a schoolteacher she later completed her BSc Counselling degree that led her to take up a new post of research counsellor at the University of Zimbabwe. In this position, she was exposed to the research environment for the first time.
Years later she did her MA in Social Behaviour Studies specialising in HIV/AIDS and when the opportunity arose took up a position as a study coordinator at the Africa University Clinical Research Centre – a unit under the College of Health, Agriculture and Natural Resources. Here she got involved in networking across institutional and country borders. Through a collaborative grant, led by the University of Zimbabwe’s Research Support Centre she was introduced to the concept of research management and administration. One of the grant components provided for training and mentorship in research management equipped her with skills and knowledge and invaluable experience such as participation in regional and international research management conferences. The University could also start with a process to set up research management structures and services.
Africa University is steadily growing its research intensity, but high impact research outputs have been low due to the lack of institutional research management strategies. Fortunately, the University Executive embraced the benefits of research management and in 2021 a director was appointed in the Office of Research and Innovation. With the support from the Executive and Human Resources, eight staff members improved their skills and knowledge and are currently providing research management services across the institution. Capacity development is an ongoing process and Mandla finds her current role as Research Programs Coordinator constantly changing as the institution defines its research management structures and functions. She is involved in the overall coordination and support of the research management services across the university.
Research management is still emerging in Zimbabwe, and she finds it satisfying to be able to walk on unchartered territories, learning as she serves and measuring her success in seeing more and more researchers writing grant proposals and succeeding in attracting research funding and delivering high quality outputs.
It is important to Mandla to engage with researchers and support them with confidence. This requires the constant upgrading of her skills and competence. She used the Professional Competency Framework (PCF) for Research Managers to identify the competency areas that she wants to improve in and acted by enrolling for the Postgraduate Diploma in Research Management and Administration at Stellenbosch University. Her studies is supported by a scholarship from the African Academy of Sciences RemPRO Africa and the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa. In 2021 she was awarded professional status as a Research Management Professional (RMP) through the IPRC. She says: “This is the highest honour I cherish most as I am the only one in Zimbabwe at the moment and other research managers and administrators are encouraged now to take up research management seriously as a profession”.