Canadian-born Linda Tom works full-time for UNICEF in the Central African Republic (CAR) and will graduate with a Masters in Public Policy and Management.
She completed her Masters part-time online between September 2011 and October 2013 during a period of major upheaval in CAR, which saw her evacuated from the country on several occasions.
Linda, 39, who is originally from Montreal, says: “It was really hard and I can’t believe I graduated. I started my Masters just before moving to CAR. After being there for about 11 months, conflict broke out. I was evacuated to Cameroon in January and had to leave my books behind. Things seemed to have settled down so we went back to CAR, but then I got really sick and had to go to Canada for treatment.
“By the time I got better, there was a coup d’état in CAR and I was evacuated again. Back in Cameroon, every day we followed the news closely on CAR. As the situation worsened, we moved from a hotel to an apartment. Morale was low and I found it difficult to concentrate. Sometimes I would not be able to reach the team in CAR for days. For my studies, I went months without my books and study materials, but luckily a lot of it was available online. I finally returned to CAR in July, but was not allowed to return to my home. I lived out of a hotel for a month before we were able to settle back in.”
Linda is the Chief of Communication for UNICEF in CAR, working with international and national media, celebrities and fundraisers to bring attention to the crisis in CAR which has devastated the lives of 2.3 million children. She recently brought Mia Farrow to the country to bring attention to the crisis and hosted a trip for the Spanish and French UNICEF fundraising offices.
As Linda works full-time, online study was her only option. She chose York due to its reputation and because she liked the programme. As part of her studies, she wrote a thesis on the nature of the fragile state, using CAR as a case study.
Linda says: “I was interested in what happens in the absence of a functioning government. Also, how the provisions of public services present special challenges, where non-state entities have established a presence to provide emergency relief. Using Moore’s concept of political underdevelopment as a framework, the issues of governance were also examined in light of the March 2013 coup d’état that left the country without a functional government and brought health, education and social services to a halt.
“The York course really grounded me. Sometimes it’s difficult to contextualise what is happening and it’s important and healthy to criticise how we work. Knowing the history of public administration and aid is really important to understand where we are and where we need to go. Specific tools like gap analysis were also very helpful.”
Linda graduated with a Masters in Public Policy and Management in July.