Student activist and youth leader Ester Simon is the new secretary general of the Southern African Students’ Union (SASU), effective 13 December 2021, for a four-year term.
SASU is an African student union dedicated to the creation of an enabling environment to the observance of human rights, academic rights, gender equity, peace and democracy in all of southern Africa.
SASU is composed of student formations from the 14 Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states, who are committed to the development of southern Africa through education and unity.
The members congregated in Windhoek to elect their new leadership.
“We now take the strategic administrative role of the student union within the SADC region, where Namibia will be shaping the administrative support and running the headquarters of the organisation, which is in Johannesburg, South Africa,” she told Youth Corner.
Her main roles include being the executive/administrative officer and chief spokesperson of the union, further convening the secretariat and other related organisations’ meetings in consultation with the chairperson.
Simon, who is a law student at Unam and former Namibian National Student Organisation (Nanso) president, is also tasked with being the co-signatory to all monetary transactions of the organisation and responsible for co-operation with governmental and non-governmental organisations in and beyond the region as well as handling operations and overseeing the SASU secretariat.
She stated that the general focus of SASU has always been academic freedom within the region, especially considering there is an academic oppression existing in some regions – and that has been an adamant fight.
“As far as the welfare of students is concerned, we are talking about issues of mental health of students. The pandemic has stretched the issues surrounding mental health and migrating to a system where many do not have access to online services and general issues of using such platforms,” she said.
Simon stressed the importance of addressing the plight of students in rural areas, as some do not know how to operate a laptop or computer.
She added that the pandemic has brought a lot of challenges into their academic spaces, and that needs a redress of the situation.
“Now, as SASU, we need to ensure there is inclusivity and access to education for all, and also address issues on mental health that students are struggling with.”
“What we need from Namibian students is cooperation and to join SASU campaigns because these are beneficial to them. This includes access to education campaigns, projects around welfare and funding for students.”
Simon said financial support always trickles down to students; thus, she expects Namibian students to take advantage of the opportunity at the union and use it accordingly.
“This is an added advantage because Nanso is a direct affiliate of SASU, which means any work that we need to do within the Namibian borders will be channelled through to the ground floors for Nanso.”
Simon also serves as a board member on the Global Campaign for Education, which is a civil society movement representing more than 100 education organisations around the world, active in the education sector at national, regional and international levels.
Moreover, she serves on the Unesco interim council of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG4).