Welcome Dr Petrina Nandjila Mwetulundila to Namambe, I am pleased to have you on this platform.

And congratulations on your achievement…

Thank you very much.

1. Why are you called Nandjila and what does it mean?

Nandjila yaushimba is a name that was given to me by my paternal grandmother, signifying that at the time of my birth, my father was not home, he was at oushimba (colonial okaholo at the time).

2. What is your favourite book?

I like reading autobiographies and biographies of people.

3. Well before we continue with other questions please tell us more about yourself. Where did you grow up, go to primary, secondary school and tertiary education?

I was born and bred at Oupembe village in the Ombalantu district of Omusati Region, more than 4 decades ago. I started primary school at Anamulenge Lower Primary and Okavu SP respectively. After Std 5, I went to Yambalantu Secondary School for three years. In 1985, with five girlfriends, I left for exile, and went to continue secondary school in the Republic of Ghana. After independence I went to the University of Namibia and later to the Flinders University of South Australia in Australia for studies.

4. Why did you study up to PhD level?

It is something I told myself to accomplish, and being in an institution of higher learning that became logical, it was not easy, but I managed

4.1 What is the topic of your thesis?

LIVED EXPERIENCES OF ORPHANED LEARNERS AND SCHOOL LEVEL STRATEGIES FOR THEIR INCLUSION AT SELECTED PUBLIC SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN OMUSATI REGION, NAMIBIA at the Faculty of Education (inclusive education).

4.2 Why did you choose that topic and what have been your major findings?

I chose that topic in inclusive education because I wanted to find out how the 2013 policy on Inclusive Education was being implemented in rural settings in Namibia.

The study, among others, found that Orphaned Learners (who are part of the educationally marginalised in the country) faced many social issues, including the inability to access state sponsored welfare grants either because the OLs were over-aged, or lacked required documentation (birth certificates) to apply for welfare grants, resulting in a compromise on their wellbeing.

5. What were the challenges and opportunities when you were doing your PhD?

Some of the challenges were that my study site was far to reach, particularly during my data collection time as a self-sponsored student. But I am glad to have done a study in my home region, and I hope many more researchers will take interest to study diverse aspects of life in the Omusati Region.

Nevertheless, I am grateful to the Ministry/Department of Veterans Affairs for the initial grant that started off my PhD studies.

6. What advice would you give to those who still want to study further?

I will advise them that they should without hesitation go for it. This is important because research findings are the ones to be used in planning for our country.

7. If you are given another chance to study, would you go for it?

I would, but this time I would like to read law, it is fascinating to me.

8.  What about your work experience? Tell us in details about your work experience?

I am a trained secondary school teacher who started off tutoring and then teaching at secondary school. Having served as a student intern while studying, the work there paved way for me to thrive in the development sector for over a decade.

9.  What would you describe as the main highlights of your careers?

Getting an opportunity to lead the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA) was one of those highlights.

10. Is there something that you have learned from your career that has shaped your life for goods?

I have learnt that the role of donors in the development realm of the developing world, and how as Africans we cannot depend on donor aid to get the development we need. Our countries need to wean ourselves from the total dependency on donor aid as a means to our development.

7. What opportunities and challenges came your way as a university employee?

Being in academic institution helped me to remain focussed on my studies, however being on a contract meant that I made funds available for my studies.

8. Who are the people that you still remember as having played a key role in your education? And who is your role model at the moment and why?

My earlier teachers in Namibia, in Ghana, my University Supervisors in Namibia and Australia. Another one is Ms Lydia Osei, my former Headmistress at St. Louis Secondary School in Ghana, an educator par excellence.

Also getting to know that my late mother sacrificed her schooling to take care of her brothers made me more determined to use the opportunities that my mother did not have to study further.

9. In a brief paragraph how do you describe academic life in Namibia?

I believe that academic life in Namibia, is difficult as academics have to try hard to combine teaching, research and community engagement activities to the detriment of research, in particular. Also there seems to be a disconnect between research findings and decisions taken by decision makers. This is because one notices that challenges that were found through research many years ago, are still cropping up, only that they have now become insurmountable.

10. What is that you think needs to be done to improve quality of life in Namibia?

I feel there is need for a lot of political will to avail funding resources to ensure policy implementation, provide quality teacher training, involve parents, communities and learners in education, in particular.

11. If you are given money and power to change or do something in Namibia, what would it be and why?

Given that our country is vast, I wold construct hostels/boarding facilities for all schools in order to give a better opportunity to all learners, instead of having some learners rent in ‘flats’ in informal settlements, like it is happening at St. Charles Luanga SS and Omaulayi location, to be able to attend school.

12. Are you the first to obtain a PhD at your village? If so what message would like to share with the young ones out there?

Perhaps, however I would like to encourage the young ones that they now have better opportunities these days, and they need to take them. I am aware there are those planning to study to that level, and others studying Medicine and other courses including Chartered Accountancy. I would like encourage them and wish them well in all their endeavours. The opportunities are wider these days.

13. What good memories do you recall when you were studying in Australia?

 I still recall that Australians are down to earth people. I remember that when I arrived there I could not go to church for a number of weeks waiting to buy a church outfit, and by the time I got it and went to church, I was surprised to see people in jeans, t-shirts and shorts attending church service.

13. Is there any other thing that you would like to share with Namambe followers?

I would just like to thank Namambe for the opportunity to share. Additionally, I would like to reiterate that we should all work hard in our various fields of endeavour to develop our country Namibia.

Thank you very much for your time and insight, it was a pleasure interacting with you.

Study Abstract

LIVED EXPERIENCES OF ORPHANED LEARNERS AND SCHOOL LEVEL STRATEGIES FOR THEIR INCLUSION AT SELECTED PUBLIC SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN OMUSATI REGION, NAMIBIA

This study investigated, in meso-systemic settings (home and school), the lived experiences of orphaned learners (OLs) from two selected public secondary schools in the Outapi Constituency of the Omusati Region. The study also investigated the implementation of the 2013 Sector Policy on Inclusive Education in a rural setting. Orphaned learners in Namibia, as part of the educationally marginalised population, are at risk of exclusion from education, as they are exposed to discriminatory education settings, despite the policies and various attempts for inclusive education (IE) practices.

The researcher employed a phenomenological case study approach. The study did not only observe, hear voices and obtain visuals of Orphaned Learners, but also engaged caregivers and educators to obtain their perceptions on IE, and gauge their understandings on the basic legal frameworks in place to promote inclusive practices in Namibia. The researcher did these to unravel how lived experiences affected the orphaned learners’ schooling processes, and to develop a conceptual model of inclusion, care and support of OLs in Namibia. This conceptual model, facilitates the development of a holistic approach to the care and support for vulnerable learners. The data collected was analysed using ATLAS.ti.

The study, among others, found that Orphaned Learners faced many social issues, including the inability to access state sponsored welfare grants either because the OLs were over-aged, or lacked required documentation (birth certificates) to apply for welfare grants, resulting in a compromise on their wellbeing.

The study concluded that in the absence of educational, material and psychosocial support for OLs, the envisaged equitable inclusion of orphaned learners, as part of the educationally marginalised, in Namibian schools remains a pipedream. Thus, Namibia’s 2013 Sector Policy on IE, which aspires for all schools to create accommodating learning environments, has not been applied effectively in some schools, at least not in the ones that participated in this study. 

The PhD study was undertaken and completed under the supervision of Dr. Cynthy Kaliinasho Haihambo-Ya Otto as main supervisor and Dr. Anthony Brown as co-supervisor.

Dr Mwetulundila with relatives at the Graduation Ceremony
Prof Sifiso Nyathi of the University of Namibia making sure that academic dresses are dressed correctly.