Jacinto's pathway

Jacinto's pathway to Graduate Student

Jacinto Mathe

I am a student in the PhD Program in Anthropology at the University of Oxford. I was born in Chibuto, a small city located in Gaza province in the south part of Mozambique. From birth until I was 25 years old, I lived with club feet. Then I had a long process of surgeries to fix the problem, and indeed my feet are no longer clubbed. Despite this congenital abnormality, I did not stop pursuing my studies. As other Mozambicans have, I continued looking for better conditions to overcome and reduce poverty for ourselves and our families.

I started my primary school in a very small area, Mahungo, located in the Maqueze locality of Chibuto district. At school, from grade 1 to 5th I sat on a trunk and sometimes on a piece of rice bag as a mat, because what mattered were my studies. I started having lessons on a proper desk from grade 6, but I had to face another issue, which was the distance from home to school: I had to ride a small bike for 6 km to go to school and 6 km back home. The bike didn't resist the distance and broke down after 9 months. But then, as always, there was a way to keep focused when conditions became adverse: I started using a donkey to go to school everyday until I finished my grade 7. At this point, I had to leave my parents in order to attend secondary school (grade 8 to 12th) in Chibuto city, and I missed my father’s and mother's hugs and care. In 2012 I started my undergraduate course in veterinary medicine. I actually chose this field to become someone who could help with medical assistance, the donkey that helped me so much during my studies. I did this because I remembered how much the donkey was committed with my transport to school everyday, walking 12 km even in the days that it had some illnesses. By 2017, I had received my BA from Eduardo Mondlane University, and more than helping just my donkey I became a vet of wildlife in Gorongosa National Park. In the same year I worked in Gorongosa as Research Fellow and intern with the Paleo-Primate Project Gorongosa until I got the opportunity to move on with my studies. In 2018, I started the master's program in Forensic Anthropology at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. At the same time I had the first of my long surgeries to fix my feet. I felt well integrated in the master’s program and learned a great deal, and I finished with a very interesting dissertation aimed to develop a model to estimate the age of Mozambican children. Before finishing my master’s, I had an opportunity to apply for the PhD program at the University of Oxford,  which was successful.

This has been my journey from being a little boy who rode the donkey to becoming a vet, then to a master’s in Forensic Anthropology, and now to a doctorate in Biological Anthropology at the University of Oxford. I am currently focused on the last frontiers of the African Rift Valley and the environments of human origins by surveying and collecting osteological samples across different landscapes in Gorongosa National Park and to carrying out ecological analyses of the bones.

Any questions regarding my research, please be in touch via jacintomathe@gmail.com.