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They Said It Wouldn’t Work

The Namwandis started by teaching one student in their home. Today, Virginia Namwandi is the first female vice-chancellor of the first private university in Namibia, with more than 8,000 students at five campuses across the country.

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Vision. That is how it started.

At the dawn of Namibia’s independence from South Africa in 1990, David Namwandi, a teacher, and his wife, Virginia, noticed a skills gap. They knew that education was Namibia’s future.

“IUM [International University of Management] was founded on a one-on-one basis: one student, one lecturer, one employee, one lecture room, one blackboard and a few hundred Namibian dollars,” says Namwandi.

“My husband was the first lecturer and I was the administrator, registrar, everything.”

This was in 1994, at their rented house on 12 Sauer Street, in Windhoek. Soon, the Namwandis had four students, which later grew to 10—so many that they could no longer be taught at their home. This led to the establishment of the first private university in Namibia.

“The gap was much larger than we had even imagined. People were so hungry for what we had to offer. It became increasingly obvious that we needed to give a qualification to the programs we were offering,” she says.

The driven duo gained accreditation and offered programs from numerous international academic institutions. Twelve years later, in 2002, the founding president of Namibia, Sam Nujoma, unveiled IUM at the Safari Hotel, in Windhoek.

“We receive good support from the Namibian government… without them we would not be where we are today,” says Namwandi.

Namibians didn’t think that a private university was necessary, since there was a public university and the polytechnic.

“At the beginning there was a lot of discouragement, especially when we had financial issues, which is common to any growing institution when you are starting. People discouraged us and said: ‘Just give it up, it will never work, it can’t work, not here,’” she says.

Criticism taught her that “you can do anything. If you set your mind to do something, you can achieve it”.

“When I look at myself, where I was 10 to 15 years ago, if you had told me that I would be doing what I am doing now, I would have not believed you. But the truth, is sometimes in life, we underestimate what we can do. So, it’s only when you are thrown into the deep end that you realize what you are capable of doing,” she says.

For the only private university in Namibia, this was unchartered territory.

“It has not been easy to access the funding. Public institutions are subsidized by government, so they are able to offer good remuneration, have the infrastructure and government, from time to time, will be able to come to their aid. But for ourselves, we have to fund ourselves,” she says.

In 2010, David, by then a PhD candidate, stepped aside as the university’s first vice-chancellor, after he was appointed the deputy minister of education. Earlier this year he was appointed the minister. It was only natural that his wife, who had shared his vision, would assume the role of vice-chancellor.

Thousands of graduation caps and five campuses across the country are a testament.

“When we moved to our present location in Dorado [Windhoek], the current president, his excellency [Hifikepunye] Pohamba, inaugurated the building. President [Sam] Nujoma was also present. It was an honor to have both the current and founding presidents there in 2010,” says Namwandi.

Nujoma also celebrated alongside the couple at the university’s 10th anniversary last year.

The newly-appointed minister is known for his stern stance against corruption and mismanagement, yet after 23 years of independence, the Namibian education sector still struggles.

“At the beginning of every year, it’s the same cry, the institutions cannot accommodate a lot of the students.”

IUM will expand to the southern and eastern parts of the country next year. These campuses will focus on non-degree programs such as tourism, hospitality and events management. The country’s landscape makes it a prime destination for international tourists. Namibia welcomes 1.2 million visitors each year—which is around half of Namibia’s population—and tourism contributes N$16.6 million ($1.6 million) to the GDP, just over 20%.

The university has four faculties: business information systems; tourism and hospitality; defense management; and a one-of-a-kind faculty of HIV/AIDS management.

“We felt the time had come for us to offer programs that were relevant to Namibians,” she says.

The students studying at the HIV/AIDS management faculty come from Namibia and the South African Development Community (SADC) region, specifically Botswana. Its graduates work at the United Nations, NGOs and faith-based organizations.

“The lady who is in charge of the HIV/AIDS program in the defense force is our alumni,” says Namwandi, with pride.

She continues to fight Namibia’s skills shortage with lecture rooms that create employment.

“We are still heavily economically dependent on South Africa and others. It’s a situation that I would like to see change. It’s important that as much as Namibia took the reins, in terms of its political independence, this should be the time that we focus on making ourselves economically independent.”

This, she believes, is possible through empowerment by means of education.

“Education is the key; it will be one of the main enablers to reach 2030, which is the national vision for the country. I have hope, I see some of the decisions that are being made currently, that are going to enable that to make it happen,” she says.

Namwandi is open-minded—she looks beyond conventional qualifications and the university offers non-degree qualifications too.

“When you need a bulb changed or a plumber, you don’t need to go to someone with a degree. We need to also upgrade the concept of vocational training because for the longest time people looked at it as a lower qualification but the idea is to give it that place, to lift the status that will equip us well for the future.”

IUM is building hostels to cater for international students, who hail from 14 countries.

“They are all my children, in fact I always say that the most emotional experiences for me is a graduation ceremony… I love being around young people. They keep one young and youthful,” says Namwandi.

The academic staff are also an international mix.

“We have an IT lecturer from Cuba. We have an IT lecturer from India. We have [many lecturers] from the SADC region, especially Zimbabwe, and at management level we have someone from Sri Lanka, our registrar is Scottish.”

Her mantra for entrepreneurial success is: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

“We need to step out of the box; we’ve been boxed and it’s time to get out of these boxes and say: ‘No I can do it, if this person can do it, so can I.’ There is a big change in Namibia now because if you look at women soon after independence and now, women are coming out and filling those top positions and its good for us.”

So speaks the only female vice-chancellor in Namibia.

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Current Affairs

The Rage And Tears That Tore A Nation

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Snapshots of the outrage against foreign nationals and protests against sexual offenders in South Africa in recent weeks, captured by FORBES AFRICA photojournalist Motlabana Monnakgotla.


As the continent’s second-biggest economy, South Africa attracts migrants from the rest of Africa. But mired in its own problems of unemployment and political instability, September saw a serious outbreak of attacks by South Africans on foreign nationals and foreign-owned businesses. And they have been ugly.    

The spark that fueled the raging fire was in Pretoria, the country’s capital, when a taxi driver was shot dead by a foreign national who was selling drugs to a youngster in the central business district (CBD).

The altercation caused a riot and the taxi industry brought the CBD to a standstill, blocking intersections. It did not stop there; a week later, about 60 kilometers from the capital in Malvern, a suburb east of the Johannesburg CBD, a hijacked building caught fire, leaving three dead. As emergency services were putting out the fire, the residents took advantage and looted foreign-owned shops and burned car dealerships overnight on Jules Street.

The lootings extended to the CBD and other parts of Johannesburg.

To capture this embarrassing moment in South African history, I visited Katlehong, a township 35 kilometers east of Johannesburg, where the residents blocked roads leading to Sontonga Mall on a mission to loot the mall and the foreign-owned shops therein overnight.

Shop-owners and workers were shocked to wake up to no business.

Mfundo Maljingolo, a worker at Fish And Chips, was among the distressed.

“This thing started last night, people started looting and broke into the mall and did what they wanted to do. I couldn’t go to work today because there’s nothing to do; now, we are not going to get paid. The shop will be losing close to R10,000 ($677) today. It’s messed up,” said Maljingolo.

But South African businesses were affected too.

Among the shops at the mall is Webbers, a clothing and footwear store. Looters could not enter the shop and it was one of the few that escaped the vandalism.

Dineo Nyembe, the store’s manager, said she was in disbelief when she saw people could not enter the mall.

“We got here this morning and the ceiling was wrecked but there was no sign that the shop was entered, everything was just as we left it. Now, we are packing stock back to the warehouse, because we don’t know if they are coming back tonight,” lamented Nyembe, unsure if they would make their daily target or if they would be trading again.

 Across the now-wrecked mall are small businesses that were not as fortunate as Webbers, and it was not only the shop-owners that were affected. 

Emmanuel Nhlane’s home was robbed even as attackers were looting the shop outside.

“They broke into my house, I was threatened with a petrol bomb and I had to stand outside to give them a chance; they took my fridge, bed, cash and my VHS,” said Nhlane.

Nhlane had rented out his yard to foreign nationals to operate a shop. He does not comprehend why his belongings were taken because he doesn’t own a shop. Now, it means that the unemployed Nhlane will not be getting his monthly rental fee of R3,700 ($250).

Far away, the coastal KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, was also affected as trucks burned and a driver was killed because of his nationality. This was part of a logistics and transport industry national strike.

Back in Johannesburg, I visited the car dealerships that were a part of the burning spree on Jules Street.

The streets were still ashy and the air still smoky, two days after the unfortunate turn of events.

Muhamed Haffejee, one of the distraught businessmen there, said: “Currently, we are still not trading.” 

Cape Town, in the Western Cape province of South Africa, which hosted the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa from September 4 to 6, was also witness to protests by women and girls from all walks of life outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre, demanding that the leadership take action to end the spate of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country.

There were protests also outside Parliament. What set off the nationwide outcry was the shocking rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old film and media student at the University of Cape Town, inside a post office by a 42-year-old employee at the post office.

There was anger against the ghastly crimes and wave of GBV in the country that continues unabated. According to Stats SA, there has been a drastic increase of women-based violence in South Africa; sexual offences are up by 4.6%, from 50,108 in 2018 to 52,420 in 2019.

A week later, on a Friday, Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile and one of the biggest economic hubs, was shut down by hundreds of angry women and members of advocacy groups from across Johannesburg. They congregated by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), the cynosure of business, singing and chanting, to demand “a 2% levy on profits of all listed entities to help fund the fight against GBV and femicide”.   

Among the protesters was Cebi Ngqinanbi, holding a placard that read: “I’m not your punching bag.”

“We came here to disrupt Sandton as the heart of Johannesburg’s economic hub. We want to make everyone aware that women and children are being killed every day in South Africa and they [Sandton] continue with business as usual, sitting in their offices with air-conditioners and the stock exchange whilst people on the ground making them rich are dying. That is why we are here, to speak to those that have economic power,” said Ngqinanbi.

She added that if women can be given economic power, they will be able to fend for themselves and won’t fall prey to abusive men, since most women stay in abusive relationships because men are more financially stable.

Amid the chanting and singing of struggle songs, Nobuhle Ajiti addressed the crowd and shared her own haunting experience as a migrant in South Africa and survivor of GBV. She spoke in isiZulu, a South African language.

“I survived a gang rape; I was thrown out of a moving car and stabbed several times. I survived it, but am I going to survive xenophobia that is looming around in South Africa? Will I able to share my xenophobia story like I can share my GBV story?” questioned Ajiti.

She said as migrants, they did not wake up in the morning and decide to come to South Africa, but because of the hardships faced in their home countries, they were forced to come to what they perceived as the city of opportunities. And as a foreign national, she had to deal with both xenophobia and GBV.

“We experience institutionalized xenophobia in hospitals; we are forced to pay huge amounts for consultation. I am raped and I need medical attention and I am told I need to pay R5,000 ($250).

“As a mere migrant, where am I going to get R5,000? I get abused at home and the police officer would ask me where I’m from because of my accent, I sound Zimbabwean. What does my nationality have to do with my husband beating me at home or with the man that just raped me?” she asked.

Women stop traffic while they hold up placards stating their grievences against GBV. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

Addressing the resolute women outside was the JSE CEO Nicky Newton-King who received the memorandum demanding business take their plight seriously, from a civil society group representing over 70 civil society organizations and individuals.

The list of demands include that at all JSE-listed companies contribute to a fund to resource the National Strategy Plan on GBV and femicide, to be launched in November; transport for employees who work night shifts or work after hours; establish workplace mechanisms to provide support to GBV survivors as part of employee wellness, and prevention programs that help make workplaces safe spaces for all women.

Newton-King assured the protestors she would address their demands in seven days. But a lot can happen in seven days. Will there be more crimes in the meantime? How many more will be raped and killed in South Africa by then?

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How LinkedIn Is Looking To Help Close The Ever-Growing Skills Gap

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As the job market has evolved, so too have the skills required of seekers. But when 75% of human resources professionals say a skills shortage has made recruiting particularly challenging in recent months, it would appear as though the workforce hasn’t quite kept pace. Now LinkedIn is stepping in to help close the gap.

On Tuesday, the professional social network announced the launch of a “Skills Assessments” tool, through which users can put their knowledge to the test. Those who pass are given the opportunity to display a badge that reads “passed” next to the skill on their profile pages, a validation of sorts that LinkedIn hopes will encourage skills development among its users and help better match potential employees with the right employers.  

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“We see an evolving labor market and much more sophistication in how recruiters and hiring managers look for skills. … We also see a changing learning market,” says Hari Srinivasan, senior director of product management at LinkedIn Learning. “The combination of those two made us excited about changing our opportunity marketplace to make the hiring side and the learning side work better together.”

So how exactly does it work? Let’s say a user wants to showcase her proficiency in Microsoft Excel. Rather than simply listing “Excel” in the skills section of her profile, she can take a multiple-choice test to demonstrate the extent to which she is an expert.

If she aces the test, not only will a badge verifying her aptitude will appear on her profile, but she will be more likely to surface in searches by recruiters, who can search for candidates by skill in the same way they might do so by college or employer. If she fails, she can take the test again, but she’ll have to wait a few months—plenty of time to develop her skillset.   

The tool has been in beta mode since March, and while just 2 million people have used it—a mere fraction of LinkedIn’s 630 million members—early results seem promising. According to LinkedIn, members who’ve completed skills assessments have been nearly 30% more likely to land jobs than their counterparts who did not take the tests.

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“This has been a really good way for members to represent what they know, what they are good at,” says Emrecan Dogan, LinkedIn group product manager.

While new to LinkedIn, the practice of assessing candidates’ skills has been a standard among hiring managers for decades. But when research commissioned by LinkedIn revealed that 69% of employees feel that skills have become more important to recruiters than education, LinkedIn felt as though this was the time to give job seekers the opportunity to prove themselves from the get-go.

As important as the hard skills that members can put to the test through LinkedIn’s new tool may be, Dawn Fay, senior district president at recruiting firm Robert Half, encourages those on both side of the job search not to forget the importance of soft skills. “You wouldn’t want to rule somebody in or out just based on how they did on one particular skill assessment,” she says.

“Have another data point that you can use, question people about how they did on something and see if it’s something that can feed into the puzzle to find out if somebody is going to be a good fit.”

-Samantha Todd; Forbes

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Economy

Why The High Number Of Employees Quitting Reveals A Strong Job Market

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While recession fears may be looming in the minds of some, new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the economy and job market may actually be strengthening.

The quits rate—or the percentage of all employees who quit during a given month—rose to 2.4% in July, according to the BLS’s Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover report, released Tuesday. That translates to 3.6 million people who voluntarily left their jobs in July.

This is the highest the quits rate has been since April 2001, just five months after the Labor Department began tracking it. According to Nick Bunker, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, the quits rate tends to be a reflection of the state of the economy.

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“The level of the quits rate really is a sign of how strong the labor market is,” he says. “If you look at the quits rate over time, it really drops quite a bit when the labor market gets weak. During the recession it was quite low, and now it’s picked up.”

The monthly jobs report, released last week, revealed that the economy gained 130,000 jobs in August, which is 20,000 less than expected, and just a few weeks earlier, the BLS issued a correction stating that it had overestimated by 501,000 how many jobs had been added to the market in 2018 and the first quarter of 2019. Yet despite all that, employees still seem to have confidence in the job market.Today In: Leadership

The quits level, according to the BLS, increased in the private sector by 127,000 for July but was little changed in government. Healthcare and social assistance saw an uptick in departures to the tune of 54,000 workers, while the federal government saw a rise of 3,000.

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The July quits rate in construction was 2.4%, while the number in trade, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality were 2.6%, 3.1% and 4.8%, respectively. Bunker of Indeed says that the industries that tend to see the highest rate of departuresare those where pay is relatively low, such as leisure and hospitality. An unknown is whether employees are quitting these jobs to go to a new industry or whether they’re leaving for another job in the same industry. Either could be the case, says Bunker.

In a recently published article on the industries seeing the most worker departures, Bunker attributes the uptick to two factors—the strong labor market and faster wage growth in the industries concerned: “A stronger labor market means employers must fill more openings from the ranks of the already employed, who have to quit their jobs, instead of hiring jobless workers. Similarly, faster wage growth in an industry signals workers that opportunities abound and they might get higher pay by taking a new job.”

Even so, recession fears still dominate headlines. According to Bunker, the data shows that when a recession hits, employers pull back on hiring and workers don’t have the opportunity to find new jobs. Thus, workers feel less confident and are less likely to quit.

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“As the labor market gets stronger, there’s more opportunities for workers who already have jobs. So they quit to go to new jobs or they quit in the hopes of getting new jobs again,” Bunker says. He also notes that recession fears may have little to do with the job market, instead stemming from what is happening in the financial markets, international relations or Washington, D.C.

So what does the BLS report say about the job market? “Taking this report as a whole, it’s indicating that the labor market is still quite strong, but then we lost momentum,” Bunker says. While workers are quitting their jobs, he says that employers are pulling back on the pace at which they’re adding jobs. “While things are quite good right now and workers are taking advantage of that,” he notes, “those opportunities moving forward might be fewer and fewer if the trend keeps up.”

-Samantha Todd; Forbes

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