My Maths Workbook

The textbooks are designed from a vocational perspective

07 December 2021 | People

Pull Quote: “We rely too much on foreign products while we have local people who are quite competent and capable of doing the work.” – Michael Mbatjavi Kambahepa, author

Enzo Amuele

Michael Mbatjavi Kambahepa hails from Outjo but is stationed at Okakarara. He completed high school in 2011 at Outjo Secondary School and in 2012 enrolled at the Namibia Institute of Mining and Technology (NIMT), where he studied electrical general. After the completion of this course, he went on to do a national diploma in electrical engineering at the College of Cape Town, which he also completed in 2017. In 2018, Kambahepa got a job as an instructor at NAMVOC vocational institute to lecture mathematics at all levels. This is where his dream of writing started.

Kambahepa started writing his mathematics books in 2018.

“I wouldn’t give myself much credit on my maths workbooks because they were just exercises meant to aid trainees during the pandemic. My current project which will be complete by mid-November was the ultimate goal,” he said. The fierce man said he has always known that his life would take the route it has, although he can’t say that he anticipated the speed at which it progressed.

All about the book

“The books are mainly exercise books, and the activities are random exercises from a variety of books. The initial goal was to provide trainees with a book that has graph paper and all related sketches and a lot of exercises for practicing purposes with less practical solutions because we believed largely that the trainers are highly trained to fill this gap.

“It’s an additional material developed during the pandemic to ensure students keep practicing and learning while we work on the textbook version for vocational institutions,” he said.

“The two primary purposes for this book are to be a resource for understanding and a single place for homework assignments. As a resource, the students should read the sections in the book they had a hard time understanding in class.

“This book doesn’t replace the instruction the students receive from their instructor, but it should supplement that instruction, cement that instruction. That means it should help the student understand better.

“As a place for homework assignments, this book puts all the homework directly after the explanation of each section or module,” the author added.

“Since the student can write in the book, it becomes more of a combination of a textbook and exercise book. We want the students to practice a lot because the only way to master something in this world is through repetition.

“The textbooks are designed from a vocational perspective. The students need to see and understand that they are in a technical environment where they are learning to create things, not calculate things, so the books are designed in such a user-friendly way in terms of content and font styles used. Equations are typed with ‘math type’, this is an interactive equation editor for creating mathematical expressions.”

For the love of mathematics

“Mathematics is a subject that needs different approaches or teaching methodologies. The students have been exposed to the same tactics ever since. We need to change, take different approaches.”

Kambahepa said he enjoys teaching and makes sure that he comes to work with new concepts and methods every day. Students can become challenging at times, he said, adding that they at times search for questions that mathematically cannot be solved just to test him and it makes everything even more fun.

“Teaching isn’t about finding the best students but finding the best in people; people who are capable of changing the next generation,” he said.

“The template for the first few books was initially designed by me,” the author said, but as time went by, he hired graphic designers for the current books scheduled for mid-November.

For all the cover pages, the internal design is externally made.

“I won’t lie to you, it’s a lot of work, believe me. Creating a sphere alone with Microsoft can take up to seven minutes minimum, so it’s a lot of typing and creating [designing],” he said.

“I need to make one thing clear, I am not the only author. We are a group of people [authors] with different specialities, even though I initiated the whole idea of books for Namibians by Namibians for Namibian schools. I give credit to all those technicians who have been by my side since day one, Jackson Shungileni to be specific,” he added.

Next in line

The author said he still has a few things to offer before he starts investing his time in other professions. A book titled ‘Intelligence Over Qualification’ is due to be published next year as well as several academic books (digital electronics, engineering science and industrial electronics).

“The sky is not the limit, but right now I need to work tirelessly on producing the best mathematical workbooks for vocational trainees, see where I can improve, remove and re-edit to fit different institutions. The textbook version for vocational students will be the best version of me,” he said.

Aspiring writers’ advice

The following is a passage Kambahepa gives to aspiring writers:

“You should just follow your passion. We are all often encouraged to ‘chase paper’ but what does chasing paper take? My answer: Resilience. Resilience is a result of passion. Passion is that armour that shields you against bad days and the zombies that will drive you off your course while paper chasing.

“It’s that extra fuel reserved you didn’t know you had when you suddenly run out of power; it’s that friend that chats you up along the way so you don’t keep looking at the time on how long you still have to go.

“Every occupation has good and bad days, but the most important are the bad days. I say bad days are the most important because they are the decision-makers in that it’s during the bad days when we decide whether we want to continue or not.

“We decide to continue or not based on our passion. If you don’t have that, you are likely to give up. Why would you want to endure torture from something you have no love for? But if you are passionate, you will continue without even second-guessing yourself, you will wake up the next morning with your fuel tank filled up by your passion, and you will be shielded from the bad day zombies. Next thing you know, you will be on your way once more.

“If you continuously do things you are not passionate about, you will keep quitting halfway through and wake up a decade later to realise the only thing you have is unfinished projects, which collectively could’ve been a start and a finish of one project you truly love.

“Wasting time over things you aren’t passionate about will turn you into a zombie; you will die inside; you will feel empty; no amount of money will fulfil you because you find the process of acquiring that money tiresome and eventually you will give up. After all, you are now burnt out from running on empty, so having said that, never give up.

“Obstacles will always be there, people will always break you down, even those close to you if you are not careful will break you down. Believe in yourself, there are just so many opportunities out there,” he said.

Career highlights

He said he has been blessed to have many career highlights in a few years. The biggest one so far has been from Windhoek Vocational Training Centre and NamWater. “They have been potential clients so far. These institutions have already ordered more than 600 copies of my book since its inception.”

The future is bright for him, he said, adding that he just needs to learn and work in coalition with various instructors from different training institutions and produce the best product for the Namibian child.

“We rely too much on foreign products while we have local people who are quite competent and capable of doing the work.” Together with his partners, they are hoping to cater to more vocational institutions as time goes on, as their specialities are also in digital electronics, industrial electronics and engineering science. The textbooks for vocational centres should bridge this gap.

Importance of locally published books

“For trainees [students], books written by local authors set in local communities act as a mirror for their own lived experiences. These books offer an opportunity for trainees to make connections to both themselves and their immediate surroundings.

“For institutions, it becomes easier to access books in terms of procurement purposes for different disciplines and to the authors, this is a clear way of job creation especially to those graduates with an abundance of knowledge that could go to waste if not utilised appropriately.

“MASAT Publishing wants to act as a centre for information on the production, marketing, selling and distribution of vocational books locally. Establishing a community where locally trained instructors contribute to this idea without having to rely on foreign knowledge or expertise,” the author said.

Fun facts about Michael Mbatjavi Kambahepa

He is an outgoing person

He loves being busy.

He spends his afternoons playing basketball.

He loves reading, researching things or markets I would love to venture in.

He loves to eat a lot.

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