• October 17th, 2019

Practical research in arts, humanities and social sciences vital in today’s knowledge-based society


Today’s knowledge-based society is faced with many challenges, which need solutions from different angles – from researchers in the arts, humanities and social sciences, and natural sciences. Some of the challenges are disease, poverty, hunger, identity crisis, crime, gender-based violence, drought, accommodation shortages, trauma, stress, environmental pollution and climate change. It is not an understatement to say that we face these and other challenges in Namibia today.  

The current drought is wreaking havoc and both communal and commercial farmers are in a quandary, as their livestock is dying every day. Also, there has been an outbreak of Hepatitis E, which has ravaged communities in Windhoek and other areas. 

Taking cognizant of the above-mentioned and other societal challenges in Namibia, it was heartening and encouraging witnessing scholars in the arts, humanities and social sciences showcasing the findings of their research activities at the University of Namibia last Thursday and Friday. The presentations were clear testimony that in addition to teaching and community service, the scholars were serious about research, proving the importance of practical research in their undertakings and in serving the society.

 It was a marvel to witness the wonderful works that Unam scholars and their students did in four constituencies in Katutura under the theme “Kick-out Hepatitis E”. The collaborative efforts between students and lecturers from the Departments of Social Work and Visual and Performing Arts produced an effective campaign against Hepatitis E. The multilingual approach used in the campaign assisted in making the message reach most of the members of the communities. It was pleasing to note that scholars from the University of Cardiff in UK also took part in the Hepatitis E campaign, proving the significance of university partnerships. The other importance of this practical research is that it involved students. At an early stage, students are sensitised to the plight of the society, and to conduct research so that they continue the work of their mentors, and it is the empathetic heart nurtured research in the arts, humanities and social sciences that can have such humane feelings that result in action.

The news about deaths of mothers giving birth and babies dying during birth is disturbing. Birthing complications can be prevented if mothers have knowledge about antenatal care. Going for early antenatal care at clinics and hospitals is advisable for pregnant women. A research carried out in the Kavango East Region revealed negative factors such as “long waiting hours at clinics, long walking distances … lack of knowledge about the correct time to start antenatal care…” There is no doubt that if antenatal care is provided in time, complications can be identified earlier and remedial action taken. This can go a long way in reducing maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity.

Related to antenatal care, one might ask: Is it fair to sterilise women living with HIV? According to research, forcing or coercing women living with HIV to sterilise is an act of gross human rights violation. This relates to the 2014 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the government had failed to get informed consent from concerned women before sterilising them. In this case, the women suffered psychological and socio-cultural damages after the forced sterilization. This practical research proves that human science disciplines - psychology and social work in this case - are crucial as psychologists and social workers were required to work with the traumatized women. Needless to mention is the role that lawyers played in this case.

In most cases when people talk about gender-based violence, women are always the victims. While this is the case, and men must be strongly condemned for this scourge that is wrecking our society, it is also true that there are cases in which men are victims of gender-based violence. Not surprisingly, “stigma, patriarchal domination beliefs, embarrassment and cultural beliefs” are cited as influencing men not to come out openly and say they are being abused and assaulted by their intimate partners. The affected men prefer to suffer in silence; they are ashamed of making a full disclosure.

In their study on gender-based violence on men, Huntley et al. (2019) found out that “Men who have been assaulted by their intimate partners, either in same sex partner or heterosexual relationships, do not want to disclose their problems, in part because they wish to avoid additional problems. Although some may relate abuse to their own weaknesses, others blame their injuries on their own mistakes such as a careless fall or other accidents.” 

There is great need for men to change their perception of intimate partner violence against them. They are encouraged to speak out and report such cases, just like women do.

With the digitisation of most phenomena around humanity today, and more of it in the pipeline, people must be sensitized more on how to effectively use social platforms.  How lovers engage in romance through digitization is not only amazing, but it also sounds weird. But the reality is that there are people who have met their life partners through social platforms. The research proved that digitisation can also be used in counselling the youth in our society. 

When it comes to education, digitization also plays an important role. Digital learning affords an opportunity for students to access education wherever they are. The global online high school, which will be launched in South Africa in 2020, is an example of breaking physical barriers in education. While the global online high school is fascinating, and illustrates the prowess of digitization and technology, its success is yet to be measured taking the different challenges that come with it.

Other interesting findings were on semi-nomadic livelihoods of the Himba in Namibia, Ovambo basketry, conservancy governance, land use, invasion of privacy and marriage stability, the effect of workload on employee health and safety, socio-economic relationship between San and Ovambo in north-central Namibia, and Facebook as a virtual participatory political tool.

The above research findings and others benefit our society in many ways. In most cases such findings are published in journals, conference proceedings and books. It is also up to the public, governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations to request for such information from the University.
*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. E-mail address: kjairos@gmail.com


Staff Reporter
2019-10-11 07:57:22 | 6 days ago

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