Prof. Jairos Kangira
New year greetings and best wishes for 2021. It is my greatest pleasure that I am able to continue writing in this national paper, covering issues that relate to education in general and higher education in particular.
This week I had the privilege of having an in-depth interview with Honourable Minister of Information, Communication and Technology, Dr Peya Mushelenga. In that interview, I wanted to understand this man, this politician cum lawyer whose insatiable appetite for higher education has never ceased to surprise me and people around him. It is my conviction that Mushelenga’s story of success in higher education is a concrete story that will definitely inspire our youths for his story shows that young people from a humble rural background can break the barriers and succeed in life if they have determination, perseverance and focus on their education. Armed with 10 earned university degrees – not honorary degrees – Peya Mushelenga is one of the highly educated people Namibia has produced – and most probably the only one with the highest number of university degrees. The list of his earned degrees is highly impressive and the degrees make him a luminary by any standards.
To put it on record, Mushelenga is a proud holder of the following degrees: Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Studies (University of Namibia); Baccalaureus Juris (University of Namibia); Bachelor of Arts in Economics (Open University of Tanzania); Bachelor of Education (Open University of Tanzania); Bachelor of Arts Honours in International Politics (University of South Africa); Bachelor of Laws Honours (University of Namibia); Master of Arts in International Politics (University of South Africa); Master of Laws in International Law (University of Namibia); Master of Business Administration (Eastern and Southern Africa Management Institute); and Doctor of Literature and Philosophy (D Litt et Phil) in International Politics (University of South Africa). The title of his doctoral thesis was The economic diplomacy of a small state: The case of Namibia.
At this juncture, I feel it is important for readers to get the synopsis of his doctoral research to appreciate its relevance to Namibia. His doctoral thesis is about the economic diplomacy of Namibia, as a small state, for the period 1990 – 2015, adopting the analytical framework of Liberalism as a theory of International Relations studies. The study reveals that Namibia’s bilateral economic diplomacy covers over one hundred countries, with major trade partners, in terms of export trade and inward investments being Angola, Canada, China, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States of America.
In his study, Mushelenga surmises that the Namibian Government pursues multilateral economic diplomacy with the European Union, as part of the Africa Caribbean Pacific states and with regional and international economic and trade organisations such as the Southern Africa Customs Union, the Southern Africa Development Community, the United Nations Conference in Trade and Development and the World Trade Organisation. Namibia further adopts conference diplomacy as a form of multilateral economic diplomacy. The epistemological contribution made to the study of International Relations (IR) as an academic discipline is that the world is constructed under the hierarchical order that constrains power-based relations and minimises conflicts in international trade, albeit a minimal trend of pursuing interests too is observed. The ontological contribution to the study is that the behaviour of state and non-state actors are inclined to cooperation on the continuum of conflict and cooperation.
Mushelenga’s study concludes that, contrary to the assumptions in small states literature, that small states have limitations of capacity and play an insignificant role in multilateralism, Namibia has skilled negotiators who have led negotiations in regional and international organisations.
“Why I chose this topic is because it was one of the three themes that I covered under my Master’s degree thesis, and I wanted to develop it further and produce a tangible reference material for policy-makers and diplomats,” explained Mushelenga who was admitted as a Legal Practitioner (attorney) of the High Court of Namibia in 2018.
I wanted to find out what drove Mushelenga to study for all these qualifications, and whether there was an academic record in Namibia or the world he wants to break. His answer proved that he just has an unstoppable quest for knowledge.
“I studied a wide range of academic fields because I believe that knowledge is limitless and the broader the knowledge the more one is in a position to work in different areas. I do not want to be restricted to one career or profession. I am not necessarily competing with anyone or want to break any record, I am simply studying for broadening my knowledge,” said the soft-spoken Minister whose father was a contract labourer and mother a primary school teacher.
He explained in some brief details how his studies assist him in his work. “My studies for Economics have assisted me to understand the contours of the national, regional and world economy, which is pertinent to my work as a parliamentarian and Cabinet Minister. My studies for MBA has assisted me as Minister to understand corporate governance issues for local authorities and state-owned enterprises that I have an oversight function over, both in my previous and current portfolio.
“My studies of International Relations have assisted me as a parliamentarian who was involved in multilateral parliamentary duties, like when I was a member of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and Chairperson of the National Group for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). It further assisted me a great deal in my previous portfolio as Deputy Minister of Foreign affairs – later International Relations.
My studies for the law have assisted me a great deal in my previous portfolio because I was possibly the second most sued Minister apart for the Minister of Safety and Security – largely because of the acts or omissions by persons and institutions that resorted under my portfolio. There was much litigation in local authorities, traditional authorities and housing areas. Hardly two months will pass by without attending to a litigious matter. I was jokingly telling the then attorney general Dr Kawana, one day that these litigations were affording me an opportunity to practice law as if I was attorney general.
My studies in education enable me to appreciate the fundamental challenges that we face in the education system,” explained Mushelenga, who is ploughing back to the society by making significant contributions to a number of projects that benefit the Namibian people as part of social responsibilities.
It is impressive to note that Mushelenga is a lecturer in one module at Master’s degree level at the University of Namibia on a pro-bono basis – that is without receiving any remuneration. To be fully integrated as an academic, Mushelenga has a number of publications in peer-reviewed journals, an achievement that some academics fail to accomplish in their disciplines.
It was not smooth sailing in studying for all these degrees. “There were many challenges which I faced. The obvious challenge was to strike a balance between work and studies. There were instances when I was recalled from leave during examinations,” said Mushelenga.
His words of encouragement and advice to the youths are: “They can learn that discipline, determination, singleness of purpose and perseverance are prerequisites for academic achievements. A person from a humble rural background, when determined can achieve excellence.”