New Era Editor Chrispin Inambao interviewed Dr David Namwandi the founder of the privately owned International University of Management (IUM) regarding some faceless individual/s who in recent weeks have posted what IUM says is harmful, slanderous and malicious social media content tarnishing its image and harming its credibility.
NE: Kindly share with us how this concept of the International University of Management (IUM) was birthed and how you started as an institution of higher learning and how you became recognized and accredited by the Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA)?
DN: “I have always been very passionate about Education. My childhood dream was to become a teacher! My travels during the struggle and immediately after independence allowed me to visit other African countries and to gain a lot of exposure as to how African countries that gained their independence decades before us were becoming self-sufficient in terms of providing quality education and skills impartation to their citizens. One thing that stood up for me was that their citizens were not looking solely to the government as the only provider of crucial services such as education. So education is so important that it can`t be left to government alone.
I was troubled to see Namibians getting bursaries and grants to pursue studies in foreign countries due to limited space. To me this was another way of strengthening other nation`s economy thus creating employment for them and not for our people. I thus felt that it was imperative that this trend is looked at and be reversed with time. I strongly felt that this was something that could be done in Namibia as well. I can therefore say that my passion for education coupled with the desire to impart knowledge and skills to fellow Namibians gave birth to the vision that is today known as The International University of Management (IUM). The first steps on this journey called IUM were no walk in the park! Armed with nothing more than the dream and Rands 500 this mission started from the only venue that we had access to and that was in our home; converted a room into a classroom.
The immediate task was to register the Institution with the then Ministry of Labour which was then responsible for the registration of such institutions and to link up with well-established institutions overseas through partnerships that would ensure sound certification for our students. That was the birth of The Institute of Higher Education which came into being in 1994 and was the forerunner of The International University of Management. By the year 1999, I strongly felt that we had hit the ceiling as far as providing foreign based qualifications. I felt that time was right for us to develop our own programmes which spoke to us as Namibians and the region. With the valuable support of international partners, we developed programmes that had Management and ICT embedded in them to ensure that our students obtained skills that would prepare them not only for the job market - but also to become creators of work and wealth. A strategic plan was drawn up and duly endorsed by the then Minister of Education, Prime Minister as well as the Founding President. With the launch of the University on 26th October, 2002, witnessed changed of academic landscape thus the birth of the first private University in the land. What followed then was the vigorous process of accreditation from the NQA. Though all foreign courses we offered were recognised by the Ministry of Education (NQA), the University received first accreditation of its own courses in 2005 and continues to go through the normal periodic re-accreditation as per NQA requirements.”
NE: What were the main challenges that you faced to reach the position where you currently are? And how did you overcome these challenges?
DN: “In hindsight, I would say that the biggest challenge was that of gaining acceptance from our own people. Unfortunately the apartheid system seems to have left us as a nation with such poor self-image and low esteem that a black person can come up with a noble and sound idea that can benefit not just the country but an entire region and world. We faced (and still do) fierce criticism from fellow Namibians. The prophets of doom were never in short supply.
Other challenges included infrastructure and financing. At times it got so difficult that we even found ourselves being locked out of the premises we hired then. A lot of staff jumped ship as they thought it was over. But we had a vision and we had the perseverance to withstand the storms that came our way then. Overcoming those challenges was not easy! But God was on our side and a few people held on to the vision. People laughed at us, some even called us a “Micky Mouse University” but we were not deterred from pursuing our goals. In 2008/2009 we were fortunate to finally access funding through Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) and other financiers to finally start construction of our State of the Art Campus at Dorado. I can state here that indeed our move to the Dorado Campus and massive construction of Nkurenkuru and Ongwediva Campuses were a turning point for IUM. No matter how sound your programmes may be, no matter how qualified your academic staff, people still judge a good institution by its infrastructure and IUM was not an exception! The numbers of students more than doubled. Our staff profiles also continued to grow.”
NE: Currently how many students do you have? And IUM students come from which countries?
DN: “The current student population stands at 10,131. Our students are from the following countries: Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Angola, Russia, Britain, Sri Lanka, South Africa, United States of America, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, DRC, Ghana, Congo Brazzaville, St. Lucia, Tanzania and many more.”
NE: Give us a brief about the academic profiles of your lecturers?
DN: “IUM has continued to attract academics of sound repute locally and internationally. Currently IUM has academic staff from more than 12 (twelve) countries. IUM currently has an academic staff force with the following qualifications: 46 PhDs (full time)
156 Masters (full time) in total we have 202 This number of lecturers excludes tutors who have postgraduate diplomas or honours degrees. It must be noted that a number of lecturers are enrolled for higher degrees in various fields i.e. PhD programmes.”
NE: IUM continues to come under attack by waves upon waves of criticism from anonymous detractors particularly on social media seemingly hell-bent on tarnishing and slandering your repute. What do you make of these unsubstantiated attacks on social media?
DN: “Well, first and foremost I must state here that we live in a democratic country and these anonymous individuals are exercising their democratic rights.
My only issue with them is why they have to hide under anonymity. If their attacks are based on real, substantive issues, why do they have to hide? They should come out openly and confront us, with evidence and anything they have
to base their attacks on. We have been a target since inception. They know better why, but I suspect a lot of this is purely jealousy and also that misguided belief that a Black African man cannot come up with such a vision leave alone sustain it. The truth however is that “You can kill a man but you cannot kill a
vision” so IUM is here to stay, much to the frustration of our detractors. I must say that, we do not hate these people because they keep pushing us to challenge
ourselves to higher heights. We pray that they live long so that they can live to see IUM in even greater glory. So, to them I say, if that is what makes you happy, if that is what gives you sleep at night… go ahead!”
NE: You were once cleared by an ACC probe following some allegations of wrong-doing, has there been any other such investigation by any of the law enforcement agencies?
NE: Your social media detractors persist in implying IUM students should not get any bursaries from government. What are the criteria used when these bursaries are allocated? Are they only supposed to be allocated to students attending government owned universities or institutions of higher learning such as Unam and Nust?
DN: “It is really unfortunate that people would want to disadvantage innocent Namibian children and deny them access to education just because their hatred towards one person! These students are Namibians, their parents pay tax as do those in government providing financial assistance to students studying in private institutions is not unique to Namibia, countries such as Zimbabwe, Malaysia, Botswana, etc. provide loans and other forms of financial assistance to students studying in private institutions. While at this point there are people out there who out of ignorance believe that IUM receives subsidy from the government like public universities, this is unfortunately not the case at all.
In Namibia, this financial assistance takes the form of loan to students which they will have to repay, anyway. NSFAF have their funding criteria which all students have to meet irrespective of their preferred institution of study. This is what students studying at IUM have to comply with. I must also state here for the record that IUM doesn`t have special arrangement with Nsfaf to fund its students. Therefore, the allegations that suspended CEO of Nsfaf was coerced by myself when I was a minister of education to sign an undertaking to benefit IUM students is baseless and highly malicious.”
NE: There is also a narrative from anonymous IUM critics who claim you are just a ‘gatekeeper’ in essence fronting for a powerful politician, what is your comment on that?
DN: “That is actually laughable; it is so interesting how their perceived ownership of IUM changes as the need suits them. When IUM was struggling in
its infancy stages, then it was “That Namwandi`s Ka-College (Mickey Mouse)” and they laughed and mocked me. When I was appointed Minister of Education the story changed, it was Namwandi`s University and perceived “Conflict of Interest”. Now that it is flourishing, it becomes some powerful politician`s university. What a joke. They would wish that it was somebody`s else`s vision but the truth is you can`t change history, so they will just have to swallow that bitter pill of truth.”
NE: You detractors also question the manner in which IUM was registered and that the institution got accredited and prospered during the time you
were the education minister? Do you have anything to say on that?
DN: “There are rules and regulations pertaining to the registration and accreditation of institutions of higher learning. The regulatory bodies are the custodians of these processes and as such, it would be helpful if those who have issues with our status with those bodies actually approached them for verification. What they do not seem to realize is that IUM`s own programmes were first accredited in 2005 before I was appointed minister, I would advise them to take time to study the history of IUM before they make claims that hold no water.”
NE: Any other information that you would like to share with our readers?
DN: “I would like to leave the readers with these thoughts, IUM has, since its inception graduated over 14,000 students who are contributing meaningfully to the economy of this nation and elsewhere (both in the public and private sectors as well as in entrepreneurship. If even one of those products cares for only five other members of their families, IUM has provided a means of livelihood to at least 70,000 people. IUM employs about 500 full time staff. (If those staff members support at least five people it means IUM has provided a livelihood for at least 2,500. If you add other impacts such as the various companies that benefit from business with IUM through its operations I can confidently say that IUM has played a massive role in supporting and building the Namibian nation.
So, whether people want to accept it or if they chose to bury their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich the numbers speak for themselves.
Secondly, I would like to say that this institution is here to serve Namibians now and also for future generations… long after Namwandi is gone…”