In this interview with New Era’s Paheja Siririka, the Namibia University of Science and Technology new vice chancellor Dr Erold Naomab shares his academic path and challenges faced by institutions of higher learning. He also addressed ways to tackle them, as well as what he envisions in terms of the future of the university in the next five years. The 44-year-old academic is the second vice chancellor of the institution, which he took over on 1 January 2021.
PS: Who is Erold Naomab?
EN: I was born and raised in the dusty streets of Omaruru with two siblings. At the age of nine, I lost my mother; as a result, there was no stable income at home. I had to mature very quickly – and at the age of eleven, I started doing odd jobs.
PS: Take me through your academic journey?
EN: I attended primary school at Ubasen and then at Paheye in Omaruru. For Junior Secondary school, I went to a rural school called Dibasen (Okombahe); thereafter, I matriculated from Paresis Secondary School in Otjiwarango. Despite changing schools often, I ranked as a top academic performer at every school I attended.
At the tertiary level, I missed one year of university post matriculation, due to a lack of funding.
During this period, I had my first official job at Social Impact Assessment and Policy Analysis Corporation (SIAPAC) Namibia, a private development consultancy firm.
I then went on to pursue four formal qualifications over a nine-year period, which included the following degrees: Bachelor of Science (UNAM); two Masters (Science – Unam, and Research in Strategic Resource Management, Nottingham Trent University, UK) and a Doctorate qualification (Science, Nottingham Trent University, UK). I also finished top of the class at all institutions of higher learning, local or international, that I attended.
PS: What is on top of your priorities now regarding the institution?
EN: Despite the financial challenges that we have been facing, I would like to see the Institution engaging in robust fundraising initiatives to tap into various income streams.
It is undisputable that NUST cannot function without government subsidies, but this must be cushioned by additional financial sustainability initiatives.
These efforts are geared towards generating income that could be used to offset budget reductions, invest in service improvement and contribute to student wellbeing, teaching and research excellence.
PS: What are the challenges the institution is facing and how are you planning on solving them?
EN: I strive to see to it that local talent at the university is advanced, and careers are managed in a way that they can excel in higher positions.
At the same time, a balance between local and international expertise must be upheld.
Additionally, I shall embark on robust growth initiatives, including research projects, develop two satellite campus, several technology parks in consultation with stakeholders and the industry. Given the above context, our vision is to become a premier technological university.
I believe our stakeholders are in consensus that NUST, by its mandate as a technological university, is at the forefront of the national agenda on the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Society 5.0, and we shall diligently respond and comply.
PS: In terms of growth and leadership, where do you see the institution in the next five years?
EN: NUST is going through an exciting transition into a new era, and I am honoured and privileged to be part of this new journey.
In the next five years, the university will be guided by a strategic plan that focuses on creating a vibrant teaching and learning environment.
Furthermore, the plan maps our goals to drive research, as well as strengthening and building a strong stakeholder engagement to safeguard the university’s professional and social relevance towards national development.
I shall embark on robust growth initiatives, including research projects, and develop two satellite campuses, several technology parks in consultation with stakeholders and the industry.
Given the above context, our vision is to become a premier technological university. I believe our stakeholders are in consensus that Nust, by its mandate as a technological university, is at the forefront of the national agenda on the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Society 5.0 – and we shall diligently respond and comply.
PS: What are your thoughts and aspects of the students and quality of education at the institution at the moment?
EN: NUST will remain focused on ensuring that access to higher education is not a privilege but a right; hence, ensuring students from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to education – and this helps to change the course of poverty in their communities.
However, we must strike the necessary balance to offer quality education and maintain broad-based access to NUST’s programmes and qualifications.
NUST is a reputable brand, with a clear student-centred focus. However, rightfully so, there is a growing demand in the higher education sector for higher standards and quality of service.
We are aware of the growing public discontent about below bar academic excellence, innate staff members who appear frustrated and demoralised, the slow pace of transformation, students demanding better returns and higher value for their investment, as well as students expecting that we honestly, objectively and with integrity give them what we promise in our prospectuses and curricula. NUST will comply not only to secure the future of our students but their employability.