… Lingua College founder shares her story
INGRID Kloppers Mettler (IKM) is the brains behind the International Training College Lingua, which was established in 2001 with the aim of providing language training and other educational training and consultancy services to public individuals and institutions, as well as the private sector.
The college has enjoyed rapid growth from its humble beginnings, when only languages were taught.
Today, Lingua teaches Namibian and foreign languages, but has also included courses in accounting and finance, business administration, human resource management, office administration, information technology, and travel and tourism.
It is an accredited institution that strives to meet national demands, through quality teaching, research and consultancy services.
Confidente’s Marianne Nghidengwa (MN) spoke to Mettler (IKM), who opened up about her love for the education sector, and also about her passion for dancing.
MN: Give us a snapshot of who you are.
IKM: I am a very independent woman and I push myself to the highest limits. The word impossible is not something that I use easily, because I believe that the mind is very powerful. Life owes me nothing. I am the master of my fate, and the captain of my ship. What I do, I do with passion and I give my all to the causes that I believe in. Success stories inspire me. Those who rise, despite challenges, give me the courage to continue with what I am doing. What you put your mind to can be achieved through commitment and determination. If plan A doesn’t work, there is surely a plan B for me. I practice the same principle at work and I expect my employees to search for their plan B, instead of staring at challenges. I can do many things successfully at the same time, and I sometimes expect other people to be the same.
MN: Briefly tell us about your upbringing.
IKM: I grew up in Khomasdal and was the second head girl of Dawid Bezuidenhout High School. My father, probably the most positive person that I knew, was a prominent leader in the Khomasdal community, and we were expected to behave according to the norms of the society. My mother, who was instrumental in the establishment of St Andrews Primary School in Khomasdal, was a very strong woman, who worked until her death, at the age of 84. I’ve always been inspired that despite the struggle to raise 15 children (I’m the youngest), further studies was not an option in our family; we were all forced to excel and enrol at university. My father was adamant that his children should be educated, and like my brothers and sisters, I attended the University of the Western Cape, where I obtained a BA and Higher Education Diploma. At the University of Namibia, I obtained a B.Ed Degree (post-graduate) and at the Université de Franche-Comté (CLA) in Besançon, France I obtained certificates in the Teaching of French as a Foreign Language and a Trainer of the Trainers Certificate, among others, as well as a Masters Degree in French. I taught for years in Katutura. I was the first Namibian pioneer to teach French in the public schools. Although I stopped teaching in 2001, I still have very close relations with my former learners from Jan Jonker Afrikaner High School and Immanuel Shifidi Secondary School, as well as my former principals and colleagues at these schools. The support that the college receives from these communities is absolutely amazing! So yes, my family and friends, and Khomasdal and Katutura have definitely contributed to who I am today.
MN: Tell us about the establishment of Lingua College.
IKM: The college is the result of my research project towards a Higher Specialist Degree in the Management of Languages. The initial project was aimed at the language needs in the Namibian tourism industry. Circumstances, however, forced me to change my direction and I decided to use the only N$33 in my possession at the time to put a small advertisement in the newspaper offering French, Afrikaans and basic computer skills, using one computer in my flat. When more demands were made for other classes, I moved from my flat to my mother’s house, turning all the rooms into classrooms and an office, while my mother occupied only one room and the kitchen in her house. From less than 50 students in 2002, the college currently has a student community of more than 2 300, which includes full-time, part-time, distance and online learners and students registered for short courses. Having started as a one-woman show, the college has at present 63 full-time employees and a host of part-time workers in different fields.
We operate from eight buildings. Seven belong to us and we have purchased land of more than 9 000 square metres, which is centrally located, on which we plan to construct a state-of-the-art campus. From teaching initially only Namibian and foreign languages, our current scope of services include certificates (NQF Level 4) and diplomas (NQF Levels 5, 6 and 7) in accounting and finance, business administration, human resource management, office administration, information technology and travel and tourism, which are all accredited by the Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA) and registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). In addition to this, we offer various short courses, and provide translation and interpretation services, secretarial services, transcriptions, consultancy services and the renting out of training facilities. The college is also registered as a private higher education institution, by the National Council of Higher Education (NCHE), and as a registered provider of vocational training by the Namibia Training Authority (NTA), and as a CISCO Training Centre, through the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
MN: What triggered your interest in education?
IKM: First of all, I realise every single day that I was born to serve the education sector. People say that my conversations almost always turn back to education, but it is something that I absolutely love and that I am passionate about. When I meet former students and they tell me about their jobs, it’s a pride that I can almost not explain. I come from a family of educationalists. My mother, Richardine Kloppers was an excellent teacher, and my father, Andrew Kloppers, was a school principal. Almost all my family members are teachers or school principals. I guess the teaching genes are very strong in me. I was a teacher in Katutura for many years. There were times that I dropped students at home. It was heartbreaking to see how far they lived from school, and that they had to start walking already 05h00, so that they could be on time for school. And yet, some of those students were the best achievers. It’s a similar situation at Lingua. When I get frustrated with my tasks, I have to remind myself of those who want to be educated. We have provided access to so many students, and a lot of them got employment because of the qualifications that they have obtained through us. Education is the heart of development, and if I can be part of the development of Namibia, then I am very happy.
MN: How do you keep up to date with changes in the profession?
IKM: I network locally and internationally, with people in the same profession. I also read, research, as well as attend workshops and seminars in vocational and higher education.
I am also enrolled for a Programme in Leadership in Higher Education, through the University of Stellenbosch. I was enrolled for a Doctorate in Higher Education through the University of Liverpool, but I was forced to put it on hold, due to extensive developments at the college. I will, however, continue, as from June/July this year, because it is important to improve on my own qualifications, if I want to take the college to a higher level. I have to understand my field, if I want to make a success of it.
MN: How many students are enrolled each year and what are you doing to increase student numbers?
IKM: For the past two years, we have registered more than 2 000 students per annum. We have established a very dynamic marketing department, who make sure that advertising on different platforms is done. In addition to this, we ask our students to be involved, either through marketing or by giving input on our services. This allows us to reflect and to improve where necessary.
MN: How do you balance your roles as a professional and family woman?
IKM: I have to admit that I fail a lot in this regard. My work requires a lot of me, and the fact that I must ensure that people can meet their financial obligations, is quite a daunting task. I work seven days a week, I study and I have to care for my family. Luckily I have a very supportive husband, who has given up his work to join me at the college. We both work very hard to develop the college, and we both study (he is currently busy with his PhD), so it is quite difficult to have a balanced life. However, we do make time to go out together, at least twice a week, and to spend time with our children. School holidays are a must for a getaway, even if our laptops have to accompany us on the journey. During this time, although it’s not always easy to do it in this way, I get up at 03h00 and work until at least 11h00, after which we visit some places. Other than that, I have a very reliable network of family and employees that I can call upon, when things become a little bit tough to handle.
MN: What do you do for a little fun?
IKM: I go to the gym, to the movies, read and meet with friends, now and then. I am also an avid dancer, and was a ballroom and Latin American dance instructor for many years. Unfortunately, dancing is something that I can only practice now and then, at home.
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