By Marianne Nghidengwa
SHE made a mockery of education and used it to acquire more education. She is an ordinary Namibian “girl” but with six university degrees – B.Ed and B.Ed. Honors (Communication Studies) at Ulster University, UK; MA – Applied Linguistics with TEFL at Durham University, UK; Ph.D (English) at Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria; Post Graduate Diploma (Distance Education) at London University, UK; Masters of Public Policy Analysis and Administration at Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands and many other certificates. And on top of that, she has raised five children who are equally educated.
Dr Becky Ndjoze-Ojo (BNO), who described herself as a good listener, has always been an educationist since her primary school days. She has lectured at the University of Namibia (UNAM) and Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria, where she stayed for 10 years. She has also served as Deputy Minister for Education in 2005 and was the first Country Director for the British Council of Namibia.
Currently, Ndjoze-Ojo is the Principal of well-known Roman Catholic Church Private School, St Pauls in Windhoek. Confidente caught up with the confident “super woman” Becky, who boasts of a wide range of experience on her impressive CV as well as her Nigerian husband and her achievements in respective positions.
Confidènte: Who is Dr. Becky Ndjoze-Ojo?
BNO: My name is Becky Rebecca Kapitire Ndjoze-Ojo. It is quite a mouthful but for me, what is in a name is more than what meets the eye. It is a conglomeration of identities that I met and created in my 56 years of existence. Becky is a Christian girl, a child of God. I was born and bred in Windhoek and I went to school at Groot Aub. I listen a lot, so I’ve always excelled in education hence I believe that teachers inspire children to become what they want to do or become.
Confidente: What can you recall of the Old Location massacre of Namibians refusing to move to Katutura? You were three-years old at the time.
BNO: I have good memories of schooling, influential teachers and a transition of a community. During 1956, my mom played a significant role in politics and brought up people being politically conscious. We were the last people to move from the Old Location to Katutura. I remember my teachers (the likes of John ya Otto Nankudhu), who were young, energetic and politically conscious.
Confidente: Why did you choose to study education?
BNO: My mom was very active in politics and my brothers labelled her a professor who never went to school. My brothers were very educated. They would bring newspapers at home and they would read and discuss what they read. I was exposed to their education, to their views and I wanted to study to be able to read those newspapers and know what was happening in the world. I remember asking them where education ended. I was inspired by those that studied.
Confidente: How will you describe our education in Namibia during colonial times? Was it sufficient and did it help prepare you for your studies abroad?
BNO: I went through a Bantu System. The system was designed that way for us not to do more than what is provided in class. I studied beyond what I was given in class. They also created an avenue to read. Even if a certain book wasn’t prescribed, I would still read.
Confidente: If you had the chance to study anything else, what would it be and why?
BNO: I’ve always wanted to be a medical doctor but I never feel that I missed out in the career I have chosen.
Confidente: You studied in the United Kingdom (UK). How did that come about?
BNO: In 1976, I tutored at the Namibian Council of Churches in a programme that helped those that did not finish matric. I met Geene Watch from the UK, who came to evaluate the programme. As we got to know each other, I expressed my desire to study in the UK. She was the one that created the opportunity for me to go study there.
Confidente: Give us an overview of your educational experience in the UK. How is the UK education system?
BNO: I am a British educated person so I hold high regards for their education system. As a student, you are not restricted but are exposed to so much. You accumulate credits within related issues to form a link.
Confidente: How did you end up lecturing in Nigeria at Ahmadu Bello University?
BNO: My husband worked for a British Tobacco Company which had different branches and he was transferred to Northern Nigeria . Ahmadu Bello University was the only university in that part of the country so I applied. I was interviewed and I got the job as a lecturer in the School of Basic Studies. I eventually moved to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences where I taught English.
Confidente: Although personal, how did you meet your husband (who is also Nigerian)?
BNO: He was a student at Queens University of Belfast. We had African Student Associations and we all came together to celebrate Africa. He was in the leadership and that’s how we met.
Confidente: Having lectured in Nigeria how is the education system there? What have you learned that you brought home?
BNO: I was educated in Namibia and then the UK. My movement to that University was so helpful that I did my Phd. I came across two African Professors (Prof Thomas Adeyanju and Prof J.S Aliyu), they are giants of knowledge. They too have been exposed to the British education system as far as the 1960s.
Confidente: When you returned from Nigeria back home, what was your first job and have you experienced any cultural shocks upon return?
BNO: I was a Lecturer: English Materials Development at the University of Namibia (UNAM). Although I stayed abroad for 16 years, I always came back home to visit my mom and brothers. So no, I did not experience any cultural shocks.
Confidente: How did it happen you being appointed as Deputy Minister of Education by President Hifikepunye Pohamba in 2005 and how did you feel about it?
BNO: I never nursed a political ambition. I never thought I’d be a politician. I nursed an educational ambition and I wanted to be a Professor. One day, a call just came from the President and that he wanted to see me in his office. I thought he wanted to talk about English. When I got to his office, he was alone and told me that According to the Constitution he is allowed to appoint technocrats and that he was appointing me as Deputy Minister for Education. I sank in my seat as I was to go to the United States of America to start my dreams of becoming a Professor.
But, I knew that it was a call and I knew that I was going to make as many female Professors through the call. I knew many more Namibian girls would benefit. As soon as I got into office, my mission was to go to all regions to encourage not only girls but boys that with education you put yourself at a position where you can assist or serve your country.
Confidente: As Deputy Minsiter then, how did you find the job? What were your challenges and how did you assess the system during your reign?
BNO: I was brought in as a technocrat and I remained a true technocrat operating in a political environment. Education is my passion, both in terms of acquisition and application. I knew there would be people who would accept me and those that would not but the President’s trust kept me going.
I had a very supportive Minister (Nangolo Mbumba), a seasoned politician and former teacher and Principal. My contention was not an arm-chair approach but I had developed a programme to visit all prototype schools in the country’s 13 regions.
Education itself is a challenge; it is dynamic and changes with time. If our education history should be re-written, Nahas Angula should be named the Father of Namibian Education. I have seen him dismantle Apartheid Education System and setting up a new education system.
Confidente: What is education to you?
BNO: An English Professor, Aris Peters in 1972 wrote a book on Philosophy of Education. He said education is not to have arrived at a destination but to travel with a different view.
It is not excellence, you do excellence and repeatedly you become excellent. Education is an empowering tool that you come across as soon as you are born and your ability to take it on and make it your own. Equally, education is the closest thing to anybody because nobody inherits education. It is a personalised achievement; you go with it to the grave.
You do not have to be rich to become educated, education makes you rich.
Confidente: What major contributions did you make to the sector as Deputy Minister?
BNO: It is never an I did, but we did. I used my ideas to influence people but we worked together as a team. My contribution has been a part of work already done by others, I added my own niche and personalised brick to this construction. Education is a convergence of comparisons. We developed ETSIP – Education Training and Improvement Programme – a World Bank initiative for Namibia to partake in.
We helped renovate 47 schools around the country and implemented the Namibia Senior Secondary Certificate.
Confidente: In your view, what needs to be done to bring our educational sector on par with international standards given the enormous challenges such as lack of infrastructure, teachers and the high failure rates?
BNO: The process has started bringing us on par with other systems. It started with the reforming and deconstructing it in order to construct a new system. When reconstructing, you deconstruct perceptions and do new things out of it. I give credence to Nahas Angula; he opened the flood gate to education for all. Opening floodgates had its implications. It is an on-going process.
Confidente: As an educationist of many years, are you happy that given the huge investment in education, is money being well spent and if not what problems need urgent addressing?
BNO: Education is not a product but a process. The process had started a long time ago. There are five tenants of education; access – allowing all, equality – equity of access, democracy – be
provide, efficiency – efficient system that is effective and effectiveness. These are still relevant today. Education is important and it cannot be over-emphasised. It is better to end up with a degree on the streets then with ignorance. With a degree, you know what step to take next. We need to understand ourselves as a nation and what the end is for Namibia which, for instance Vision 2030, and then we develop human resources and that is where education comes in.
Confidente: Last year, the Education reform Report made several recommendations, are you happy with the recommendations. Are they realistic?
BNO: As far as I am concerned, they were the same as those in ETSIP. The advantage is that it was a reminder that those are the recommendations.
Confidente: This year, the Government introduced free Pre-Primary and primary education. What is your view?
BNO: Free education is a Universal Primary Education (UPE), a UNESCO conception that came up with the Dakar Declaration. It is not something new, it has always been there and it was implemented in Namibia since Independence. Education has always been free because parents were not paying fees but were contributing to the school’s development fund.
Confidente: Some want free Secondary education. What is your take on that?
BNO: We have the NSFAF that provides funding for studies at tertiary level. But those that can pay must continue to do so. There should be a threshold to identify those that can afford to pay secondary fees for their children.
Confidente: When you left the Deputy Minister of Education post, you became head of the British Council in Namibia. How did you get that position?
BNO: I took a year off after that post and got some much needed rest. I wasn’t ready to retire and I thought of working for an international organisation but I didn’t want to leave the country. A post was advertised by the British Council and I applied. I was interviewed and they did not resist employing me because I am a product of the British education system.
Confidente: Briefly explain what your job entailed, what were your achievements and challenges?
BNO: I was directing activities of Britain in Namibia. It was the first time the Council employed a non-British person to do the job in Namibia, but also the second in Africa. I was responsible to bring the British Council in Namibia into limelight and to make accessible the British Council global programmes for Namibians e.g. the school leadership programmes, the English Language Programme etc.
Confidente: We understand that the British Council has certain programmes which can be of beneficial to Namibian but Namibians are not utilising. What are these programmes?
BNO: The British Global Programmes are selected based on what is happening in the country. There are programmes such as School Leadership Programme, ELF, online courses and tips and many other English Programmes on the Council’s website, www.britishcouncil.com.
Confidente: You will be going to London soon. What is the purpose of the visit?
BNO: The trip is organised by the British Council Global, as an out-going Country Director, I will lead the Namibian delegation to that British Council’s international conference in London. I will be the link between the Minister and the British Council Global. I will provide network and write a report to Council of Namibia’s experience on the conference.
Confidente: Is it true you have been asked to continue assisting the British Council regarding programmes with the Namibian Ministry of Education. What exactly is that role and will it not conflict your Principal job?
BNO: Yes, it is true. The British Council gave me an indefinite contract, it would have been nice to work longer for them, I have learned a great deal. But I want to localise my experience and replicate myself in young minds. I have done my best and linked them to several institutions such as banks. I chart the way forward and hope they make the best of it.
Confidente: Being the first black to be appointed as Principal of St. Pauls. How did that happen?
BNO: Laugh Laugh Laugh…It was advertised and somebody drew my attention to it. I applied, I was short listed and I was called for an interview. I was successful.
Confidente: Obviously a few days in your position, what is your vision and strategy for the school in few years’ time?
BNO: St Pauls is 50 years old, it is well established . It is a Roman Catholic Private School. It is owned by parents and learners because they pay for it. With its reputation it has strategic plans in place and very strong resource people. My vision will be a collective vision of everybody because it will provide a broadened ownership.
Confidente: On a lighter note, what do you do for fun?
BNO: Laugh… I am a very fun person. I have supportive children and they take me to the theatre once in a while. I listen to music and dance a lot. I also do part time farming, I have a cattle post.
Confidente: Would you study again?
BNO: I would study again and do a Phd sometime.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015