From security guard to qualified teacher
18 November 2021 | People
From a night watchwoman for 11 years to graduating from the Institute of Open Learning (IOL) and now a qualified teacher, it has been a remarkable journey for Emilia Hamunyela, inspiring many to fight adverse circumstances in their lives.
Hamunyela had worked as a security guard since 2003.
The 42-year-old, who hails from Onamugolo-Oshaango in Ohangwena Region, juggled being a security guard, studying, and being a mother of three children.
She sat down with Namibian Sun on Monday at Ondangwa. Hamunyela graduated last November. Her joy over completing school was short lived. A year later, she is still job hunting and has joined unemployed graduates, with the most recent figures from the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) showing that the country’s overall unemployment rate dropped slightly from 34% in 2016 to 33.4% in 2018.
She remains hopeful. Hamunyela met political activist Monica Nambelela at her last place of employment who convinced her to further her studies.
“At first I hesitated because the obstacles were endless. I thought growing up only rich people go to college. On my graduation day I cried. I could not believe I made it this far,” she recalls.
Hamunyela said she has seven siblings and she was the only one who made it to grade 12. Her father was dead and her unemployed mother struggled to put food on the table. This led others to drop out of school to find a means of survival.
Hamunyela said she heeded Nambelela’s advice and went to the University of Science and Technology, then Polytechnic, and wrote a mature age entry test. She did not make it.
She applied to IOL, wrote the test and made it through. She was pregnant at the time, and used her maternity allowance to pay for registration fees. Her husband topped up the rest.
In the midst of it all, her third child was born, putting extra pressure on her to finish her degree and get a better-paying job.
Hamunyela enrolled for a three-year Diploma in Pre-Primary Education, majoring in Oshikwanyama mother tongue literacy in 2014 at IOL. She passed most of her modules with distinction.
The following year, her husband, who was employed at the mine at Otjihase, lost his job when the mine closed, leaving hundreds jobless.
“Nambelela told me to take my plight of funding to one of the newspapers as I cannot give up now. I did that and three months later Elijah Ngurare reached out to me and said he had found a Dr Christo Becker of Khomas Medical Centre who was willing to pay for my studies. The doctor met up with me and wrote a cheque which I took to school to cover the entire year. In my final year my husband and I did odd jobs to make sure I completed,” she said.
Hamutenya and her husband could not keep up with the Windhoek lifestyle, so they moved back to the village with their three children, who had to change schools and adapt to a lifestyle of unemployed parents.
“Job hunting is a nightmare. There is no transport money to most interviews or to drop off applications, make copies and move between our village and Eenhana town. Imagine 300 people dropping off applications for one position,” she said.
She hopes her story will inspire other young Namibians, especially women.
"Coming from where I come from, nobody tells you that you can do things in the world, you can make an impact," she says.
"If nobody tells you, you don't know. But now that I know I can tell the kids and this is why I choose lower primary.
“Age is not a hindrance; poverty is not a hindrance. Just pursue your dream with the formula: hard work plus determination plus prayer and you will reach your aspirations in life," Hamunyela said.
Hamunyela said women too often remain unambitious or shrink or give up on their dreams to accommodate other people’s needs.
“Don’t give up. Don’t submit to poverty. Try and find ways to leave it. If you search for opportunities or speak to the right people, they will guide you,” she said.