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Opinion - Great expectations for Unam’s new senior management

2021-06-04  Prof Jairos Kangira

Opinion - Great expectations for Unam’s new senior management
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With the rigorous restructuring exercise completed, and the appointment of new senior academic and administrative leaders with effect from 1 June 2021, the University of Namibia enters a new dispensation with confidence and expectations for excellence from a global perspective. 

This development ushers in a new era at Namibia’s premier institution of higher education, an era that is filled with high hopes and expectations from all and sundry.

During a recent event, where he announced the new leaders,
the Vice Chancellor of the University of Namibia, Professor Kenneth Matengu, tasked the new academic leaders to earnestly contribute to the development of the goals of Unam, Namibia and the world by initiating and supporting viable projects as outlined in the institution’s strategic plan. 

The goals and projects are informed by the National Development Plans (NDPs), Vision 2030 and Harambee Prosperity Plan at the national level, and Agenda 2063 at the continental level, and sustainable development goals (SDGs) at the global level. 

“Keep these (goals) in mind for we are a university that is poised not just for scientific impact alone, but also for development impact. 

Hence the emphasis on translational research,” remarked Matengu, adding that the leaders had to study and comprehend government policies, and find practical ways of integrating those initiatives in their faculty and campus plans, and to manage their units by objectives. 

There is abundant literature
that reveals that successful universities align their institutional goals and priorities with national and internationals goals. 

In a proactive manner, the restructuring of the University was done with the backdrop of shrinking state subsidy, high operational costs and too many inefficiencies. 

In short, the idea of restructuring embraces continuity and innovation while cherishing the history of the institution and pursuing the ideals of the future of work and 4th Industrial Revolution.

What I found most striking
in the vice chancellor’s address to the new leadership was the emphasis on the adherence to a strategic management plan that is informed by a strategic framework. First and foremost, leaders should not only understand the purpose of the institution, but they should also understand their management plans which act as beacons charting the course of the success of the university. In providing education, service and development, Unam is guided by the vision: “to be an international hub of excellence in higher education, research, training, service and innovation by 2030”.

 “So what does this mean to senior managers, to all staff and students? It simply means that each one must ask himself or herself: What is my purpose? Why am I here at Unam? How do I deploy my talent the most and where? In other words, all of us must now position ourselves to be as resourceful as we could be. Achieving this vision requires the commitment from all of us,” said Matengu. 

Furthermore, the new leaders would succeed if they ensured their programmes are high on quality and that the results of their research programmes are robust and relevant to the needs
of students, employers and humanity at large. 

“The success of students is dependent on the conducive environment you will put in place for them to succeed, the support services they will get, the love, the empathy and the enthusiasm you will inspire in them. The idea that students must be alone out there and that only a few should progress is a remnant of apartheid. Yes, they are responsible for their own studies.  But guide them. They must succeed. The future stars, the potential Nobel laureates, the global leaders, the ethical captains of industry are going to come or remain a far dream because of your actions,” emphasised Matengu.

Related to understanding the purpose of the institution is the question of practising good governance, observing all the principles of good governance, some of which are: integrity; selflessness; objectivity; accountability; openness; honest; fairness; effectiveness; and direction. What I can emphasise here is that good leaders demonstrate good governance through their behaviour.  

In other words, leadership is not only about having positions, but about the power to persuade, convince and to influence the decision-making process following principles of good governance. That is what leadership is, to influence by following university policies and processes without favouring particular sections. The importance of effective communication and team work cannot be overemphasised as they form the foundation of successful leadership.

“A university is a place-projection of your horizons, the long-term thoughts about the challenges you want to overcome in society, the contribution you wish to make and creating foundations for you to succeed. So, while you consider the immediate challenges of today, take the long term perspective to university life. That prepares you to the university of life where there are no exams,” said Matengu. 

While it is common knowledge that leadership is not a bed of roses, it is also a fact that some people must be leaders and other followers.  

Those who choose to lead prepare themselves to take the bull by the horns. John F. Kennedy, the former President of the United States of America once remarked: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”. 

To conclude, let me say that eyes are on the new leadership’s performance as expectations are high, and failure in not an option for them.

2021-06-04  Prof Jairos Kangira

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