From combatant to seasoned academic

In 1979, Andrew Niikondo (17) traded in his books for a firearm as he joined the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN). Years after the fight for liberation of the country, he continued his journey to educational liberation, pursuing his studies against all odds with stern dedication until he attained...

26 June 2020 | People

Committed to keep learning

ESTER KAMATI

In standard 7, (now known as grade 9), Niikondo made a drastic change to drop his academic career, subsequently moving to Angola to receive military training. Currently a seasoned academic with a PhD in politics and public administration, the journey has not been easy for this former PLAN combatant. He obtained his standard 10 (now grade 12) certificate through distance education in 1992, at the age of 30.

With evident drive, as if to make up for lost time, Niikondo continued to add value to his name. He enrolled for a National Diploma in Public Administration at Unam in 1995, followed by a B-Tech Degree at the Technikon of South Africa in 1999, and a master’s degree in public administration (MPA) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), specialising in gender and development. After emerging as the top student at UWC, he was offered an opportunity to defend his thesis at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, where he was the first Namibian to study gender at master’s level and consequently graduate in 2002.

He joined the University of Namibia in 2002 as a part-time lecturer and then became part of the staff at the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) the following year. In 2004, Niikondo bagged a PhD in politics and public administration. Niikondo occupied the positions of head of the Department of Public Management and deputy dean of the School of Business and Management at PoN. In 2009, he was promoted to the position of senior lecturer. He assumed duty as the vice-rector of academic affairs and research at the PoN in 2011 and later as the deputy vice-chancellor for academics at NUST in 2018. He has been the acting vice-chancellor of the institution since May this year.

“I have learnt that every achievement in life is through thick difficulties. Some difficulties are not meant to weaken a person but to strengthen him or her,” he says.

With reference to his book titled ‘Are you a ghost or a person?’, Niikondo attributes his determination to never surrender for how he survived the hardships that he encountered.

In occupying his new office as acting vice-chancellor, Niikondo conceptualises a “people-centred development” and has plans to “take this university to the people”, allowing the institution to focus on the needs of the local communities across the regions and “developing people’s skills through education and giving them a chance to use those skills in the local labour market.”

Niikondo has his work cut out for him as he takes up office during a time where the Covid-19 pandemic has caused various challenges. “This situation has severely jeopardised our teaching and learning activities on all spheres.” However, with determination, the institution has rolled out strategies including online teaching and learning.

If he wasn’t an academic, Niikondo would be filling the shoes of a general in the Namibian Defence Force, but given his commitment to education, he has become a research and methodology guru, which he considers his super power. During his tenure as deputy vice-chancellor for academics, Niikondo managed to publish and supervise masters students who went on to graduate at NUST.

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