DR. Elizabeth Amukugo is a woman of many aptitudes. Currently Head of the Unam Education Faculty, the soft spoken educational sociologist served in various set-ups including the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Namibia’s parliament and the International University of Management. She has recently been selected as one of the finalists for the 2014 Most Influential Women in Business and Government Awards. The prestigious awards will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa in October where she will battle it out with other top businesswomen and government leaders from the continent. The selection considered her outstanding contribution in her line of duty towards sustainable development of the economy, which has significantly impacted the country. Confidente caught up with Dr. Amukugo and this is what she had to say:
Give us a snapshot of who you are?
I was born at Okapya, Ondangwa district in northern Namibia. My family moved to Onayena in 1962 where my late father, Rev. Armas Amukugo and my late mother Hilma, was transferred to serve as a pastor. I grew up in Onayena where I attended primary school. I am an academic whom some call a prolific writer because I love writing. In fact, I wrote poems in Oshindonga as a primary school learner and taught younger kids, who recited them in church. I use writing to share my ideas on socio-economic, political and gender issues. As a politician and member of society I believe in social justice. As such I am critical of liberal democracy which emphasizes legalistic equality at the expense of social justice. As an educational sociologist, I interpret educational issues within the broader socio-economic context and put my trust in “capacity building”, both individual and institutional, as one of the key ingredients of socio-economic development.
Briefly tell us about your upbringing?
As a child, I grew up closer to my father who transferred some of his principles like fairness to me. Whilst I allot my independent thinking to my father, I owe my creative side to my mother who was a tailor and clothing designer among others brides. The fact that I joined politics at an early age can be allotted to my parents, especially my father who stood fast against colonial oppression – why he was recognized as a liberation war veteran. Joining SWAPO and leaving for exile as a youngster; and my educational background, all built on my childhood upbringing to make me who I am today.
Briefly tell us about your education, what are your qualifications?
I did my primary education at Onayena. Part of my secondary school education was received at the then Ongwediva secondary school, from which I was expelled for political reasons. I completed secondary education at the Aga Khan Academy, Nairobi to which SWAPO sent me; and is a holder of the B.Sc. (sociology and education); Master of Social Sciences (education) and a PhD (education).
Congratulations on your nomination for Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government, how do you feel? Are you confident you will scoop the award?
I am humbled by the nomination as well as being selected as one of the finalists. It is a nice feeling to know that one carries out duties and responsibilities in silence but that there are those who notice one’s humble contributions to society and humanity at large.
What achievements are you most proud of looking back at your works in various set-ups?
I am proud of the fact that in spite of being an exiled youth, I managed to achieve educationally. I served the Namibian society in various leadership and management capacity and am satisfied that I did so to the best of my abilities. I derived most satisfaction to the fact that I was once elected as the founding Vice-President of the Forum of African Parliamentarians for Education (FAPED) in a conference attended by five delegates from each of the fifty three African Parliaments, at which I served as the Rapporteur General. In fact I was nominated by a South African MP and received support from comrade Elia Kaiamo and the entire SADC delegates. I managed afterwards to successfully negotiate FAPED’s recognition and financial support by the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. I am also proud of not giving up one of my main interests – writing; and have produced many publications, ordinary and refereed, in spite of having served in non-academic positions during my lifetime. Besides, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a student (weak or strong) making progress, which makes teaching a noble profession. I am proud to have succeeded against odds to raise two boys, now men, as a single mother.
Many describe you as a successful woman, what would you say was your winning formula to all you have achieved?
Believing in myself! As Marcus Garvey rightly observed, “If you have no confidence in self you are twice defeated in the race of life.” With confidence you have won even before you have started.” I believe that one needs to be strong and knowledgeable first, which enables you to help others more and better.
What other roles have you served in?
Founding Chief: Multilateral Co-operation and founding Chair: National Programme of Action for the Children of Namibia; Twice Head and Senior Lecturer: Educational Foundations & Management, University of Namibia; Member of Parliament, National Assembly, Namibia; Junior and Senior Representative of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA Women) for the Africa Region; and Founding Director of Research for IUM, among others.
As Head of Unam Education Faculty, what challenges faces you as a woman and how best do you deal with them?
It is now the second time I am serving UNAM as Head of the Department of Educational Foundations & Management and senior lecturer. In the 90’s I was the only woman amongst male colleagues, but Head. Currently the Department is more balanced in terms of gender representation. Leading male colleagues, establishing teams and getting people to work together has always posed a challenge to my leadership. But, my historical background at times as the only black somewhere, the only female or one of the few; a long-term academic training and family support, have served as a source of both reference and strength that enabled me to successfully walk on stormy waters.
Do you think Government has done enough to uplift women in society, if not, what ought to be done?
Yes or no! Our Government has done extremely well in developing gender-sensitive policies. These together with Constitutional provisions and gender-sensitive laws, could have helped to uplift women in society. Notwithstanding some positive strides made, putting these good laws into practice has been a challenge, with apparent contradictions between what some of our key leaders say and what they practice. At times one gets the impression that since our political leadership has been over the years dominated by men, sometimes women are used as window dressing, as testified by the fact that certain male leaders seem to prefer women whom they can control than those who can deliver. In general however, much more women than men make up the impoverished section of our society, which needs to change.
As Head of Unam Education Faculty, are you happy with the current standard of education in the country, if not, why and what advice do you have to help improve the situation?
Independent Namibia has made strides in terms of unifying the educational system administratively, but research has shown that whilst the IGCSE/HIGCSE era encouraged a learner-centered education, it was not implemented fully. Moreover, that period was marked by poor quality education, which saw hundreds of youth ending up on the street. Hopefully ETSIP can help to turn things around. The education system, especially primary and secondary education needs a serious revamp, especially in terms of content as well as financial resources, most of which goes to administration rather than educational expenses. We also need to make room for those students who are not academically inclined to follow a practical root and do what they can do best, since every effort is necessary and can contribute to socio-economic development of the country. Diversity is the buzz word here!
Given the increase of gender based violence, what personal advice do you have for women?
Firstly, the ethos of equality, democracy and justice needs to be promoted at all level of society, and need to be made part of the curriculum from pre-primary through to university level. Secondly the issue of poverty should be tackled more seriously; and all of us especially those in the public eye should try by all means to walk the talk!
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015