• August 6th, 2020

Lessons from a struggle kid who graduated with a PhD

In a hut-like structure come out incessant cries of a new baby! A bundle of life - a baby girl - brings joy to mother, Veronica, and father, Simon - but the future seems uncertain. This is in Lubango, Angola. At Omugulugwombashe, also known as Kamati Base of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (Plan). It is during the peak of the Namibian liberation struggle when this bundle of life enters mother earth. It is war time – life at the base is difficult; babies are literally thrown into trenches when enemy soldiers strike. 

Our bundle of life survives the ordeals of the war, and Namibia becomes independent; a sovereign state.
Our bundle of life or struggle kid is Dr Etuna Simon Nghifikwa who graduated with a PhD in Science, Mathematics and Technology Education from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, last week. Her story, from struggle kid to a doctoral degree holder in computer-integrated education is not only inspiring; it also proves that nothing is impossible where there is a will and drive. It is an extraordinary feat. There are many lessons we can draw from her success story. 

The instability of living in a camp and the hardships that children experienced in the camp did not cripple the passion for education in our struggle-kid-turned-Doctor. In her opinion, education remains the powerful vehicle of development on a personal level and national level. Being born in exile in Angola and as a child of the liberation struggle generally gave Dr Nghifikwa two choices; accept and maintain the status quo, or become an agent of change. She rejected to survive on handouts and chose to be an agent of change through education - education of self and then of others. She rejected to be a cry-baby.
Her poor background did not deter her from achieving her goals in life.

“Like many other children from a poor background, my parents could not afford to send me for further education after my secondary schooling and I took the initiative to pay for my own studies by working as a part-time tutor. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science Education, I taught Biology, Physical Science and Physical Education at Windhoek Technical High School. It is here where the passion for educational technology began as I taught science using technology in my classroom.  I took the initiative to purchase my own multimedia projector and laptop and teach using technology. I downloaded educational videos and e-resources of which I integrated in my lessons,” explained the vivacious and bubbly Dr Nghifikwa at a colorful ceremony which was held on Saturday in recognition of her outstanding academic achievement. The function was attended by family members, friends and Unam professors who were her mentors during the years she spent as student at the institution.

 It was through her teaching experiences that she realised the immense power of technology in teaching. She enrolled for a Master’s degree in Science Education specialising in Educational Technology at the University of Namibia. Upon completing her studies, Dr Nghifikwa contributed vastly to educational technology in Namibia as a researcher in the field of ICT use in the classroom by identifying strategies for teachers to improve teaching and learning with ICT. 

In the wake of the fourth industrial revelation, Dr Nghifikwa’s doctoral thesis is relevant to higher education. She investigated online formative assessment activities and lecturers’ best practices when implementing online formative assessments at higher education institutions in Namibia and Finland respectively.

 “The results revealed that lecturers incorporated several tools to design and develop online formative assessment activities. In addition, lecturers demonstrated knowledge of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) which is considered as a professional knowledge construct in the development of online formative assessment. Furthermore, the findings of this study indicated that lecturers provided feedback to students for all formative assessment activities. Lecturers had knowledge of identifying and addressing related challenges that can hinder the effective implementation of online formative assessment. The challenges which were assessed include poor internet connection, dishonesty from the side of students, insufficient time to provide immediate feedback for some assessment activities and lack of funding for research and innovation,” reads part of the abstract of her thesis. The title of the thesis is: “Evaluation of the implementation of online assessment practices at higher education institutions”. 

Dr Nghifikwa developed a strategy to improve online assessment practices at the higher education institutions, thereby proposing a Namibian model for online assessment.  ICT in education has become the main domain of research for educators; therefore her study is a huge contribution in this area. 

“I believe that having pursued a PhD in Computer-Integrated Education in the department of Science, Mathematics and Technology at the University of Pretoria was a wonderful opportunity that allowed me to get exposure of a different pedagogy and thinking about learning. Apart from the pedagogical exposure, I also believe the exposure to the resources such as technology, articles databases, interaction with other international students and share experiences which I consider necessary for my personal growth and professional development,” remarked Dr Nghifikwa. 

So, the trajectory of our bundle of flesh, our struggle kid, our Der Etuna started from exile and the humble environs of Eembidi Primary School, Oshikango and Etambo Combined schools, Canisiainum and Mweshipandeka secondary schools, through Unam to the University of Pretoria. Perseverance, dedication, focus, commitment, adventurous outgoing and a passion for education are some of the words and phrases that can be used in describing Dr Nghifikwa. 
“Follow your dreams,” is Dr Nghifikwa’s parting shot.  
* Professor Jairos Kangira is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia. He writes on his own accord. Email address: kjairos@gmail.com

Staff Reporter
2019-09-13 08:29:49 | 10 months ago

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