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A Public Health Professional in UNICEF’s Education Sector

By: Jonta Kamara

Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.

My name is Jonta Kamara, and I am currently a Junior Professional Consultant at UNICEF Headquarters (NY) working with the Digital Learning Unit. I am a health systems and health policy analyst. While education might seem a bit distanced from public health, it is still closely related and relates to previous work I have done looking at education and health.

Image 1: Jonta Kamara’s Presentation on Disability-Inclusive Education in Malawi: The Role of UNICEF and USAID at the University of Toronto Arts and Science Student Union, Undergraduate Research Conference in January 2020

I pursued my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, where I majored in Health Studies, and I pursued my Master of Public Health at King’s College London. As a student, I held several Research Assistant positions, and I was also a Global Health Policy Intern at Friends of the Global Fight. During both of my programs, there was a heavy emphasis on social determinants of health. From these programs, I became well acquainted with the importance of non-directly health sectors such as education and housing and their impacts on health. I have always been passionate about SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing but I also understood how important the other SDGs are to achieve SDG 3. I also have previous research experience in disability-inclusive education, where I evaluated UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Schools programs in Malawi. Having done an evaluation and gained familiarity with one of UNICEF’s education programs, when I was selected as JPC, I was looking forward to gaining insights into the operations of UNICEF. This would allow me to better understand how programs are run, enabling me to reflect on some of the recommendations I had suggested in my evaluation.

Although education might not be related to public health, having the opportunity to work with UNICEF has been an invaluable experience. UNICEF Headquarters administers the Learning Passport in over twenty-seven countries and over twenty-five others are in the process of deployment. This allows me to get an understanding of the implementation of projects across many countries and how these projects are tailored within specific regions within a country. This is useful for public health as there are always a lot of discussions on program implementation and how to tailor programs. Education also helps individuals to make informed decisions about their health.

I have also gained many transferable skills such as monitoring and evaluation that will be useful in the public health field. Although an opportunity may not be related to your interest area, it is beneficial to work in a sector that is distantly related as there are many transferable skills to be gained. There is so much to gain, and you can bring a unique perspective coming from a different sector. Take on a new opportunity that may appear not related to your focus area!


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