NUST at last! I am elated - Prof Tjama Tjivikua

By Prime Focus Reporter
June 2013
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NUST at last! I am elated - Prof Tjama Tjivikua

 

After an 18-year gruelling fight for the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN)’s status/name change into a university, Professor Tjama Tjivikua has had his dreams and those of others who have since rallied behind him, come true.

 

The brawl, which at times seemed to be heading nowhere and almost turned into a personal battle, has seen Government finally deciding to change PoN’s name to Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).

 

To follow up on a 2009 interview the ever energetic Prof Tjama had with this magazine, he took time off from his busy schedule again to give us insights into his institution’s milestone.

 

PF:Congratulations! PoN has finally been granted a university status. How does this feel?

 

TT:It’s here now but it comes with a long history from when I was interviewed for the post of Rector for the first time in July 1995. While preparing for the interview, I kept thinking how the institution should look like in the future.  I was in the US at the time where I was a professor, so I was interviewed via the telephone for about 30 minutes.

 

Since then, I have been preoccupied with the dream to transform the Polytechnic into a university of science and technology. I captured this idea in my concept paper later that year, I wrote: “As the world is becoming more technologically oriented, our focus as a polytechnic should be in disciplines of science and technology.In my opinion, it [Polytechnic] should be a future university of technology.”

 

Although polytechnics were intended not to award degrees, the global trend in this regard, since the ‘90s, has been changing [polytechnics becoming universities], especially in the Commonwealth countries. In Australia and South Africa, for instance, they became or merged with universities.

 

So polytechnics no longer exist in Britain while in New Zealand, some have become universities. Our Act was written in such a way that we could award degrees. This put us in a different league altogether because the moment an institution awards degrees, it is regarded as a university. So if you were to ask how many universities a country has, you would have to count every credible institution at that level.

 

The question is, what would become of an academic institution remaining stagnant in Namibia? If one would remain a polytechnic which awards degrees while, everyone around you moves on, what would become of you? You would become irrelevant.

 

Upon my return home, it became clear to me, looking at the needs of the country and at global trends that we needed to forge ahead with resolution and speedy transformation. 

 

In this journey, I have had the support of respective councils, staff members and students of the PoN to realise the dream. Indeed, we are deeply indebted to former ministers of education: Nahas Angula for laying the foundation for the Polytechnic, Nangolo Mbumba as the catalyst for allowing the application to proceed and the late Abraham Iyambo for seeing to it that the application reached its logical conclusion. 

 

President Hifikepunye Pohamba, as a visionary, has all along supported this vision. For that, we are obliged to thank him and his Cabinet for taking the development agenda to a whole new level. They share our vision. Every Namibian is a beneficiary of this magnificent dream, as other citizens of this globe. 

 

I am obviously ecstatic about this development, especially because this project spells a positive future for higher education in Namibia. I speak for others when I say I am glad because there are many people who have been doing a lot of work in the background. Thus, this is not a singular victory but a popular one.

 

PF: Who are the winners and losers in this whole process and why?

 

TT:This is a win-win situation. The university status enhances our pull-power immensely, not to mention our output-power - qualitatively and quantitatively. We will be able to attract more quality students, scholars, funding and partnerships to be at the cutting edge of knowledge creation.  This is so good for Namibia.

 

In this respect, we should not forget that education is probably the only good that does not wear out or diminish when used, and that finally doubles up when shared. This sounds odd but it is paradoxically true. The benefits of renaming are immense.

 

Consequently, there can be no real losers in such a process, except for those who believe they have lost by nostalgically clinging on to history or habour personal interests. Higher education is our national project and the outputs not only impact positively on the Poly but also on the higher education fraternity nationally and internationally. In short, graduates who are the future leaders of this nation are the winners, so is the nation. 

 

PF: What kept you focused and determined, given the negativity you received during the status/name-change campaign?

 

TT:The negativity or perception thereof has had several sources: ignorance, resistance to change, or self-interests. Thus, this question describes what leadership is all about. Once you have a vision, true leadership becomes about focusing on attaining that vision, championing it, using every opportunity to keep your followers won over on your ideals while convincing sceptics, thus growing support for the idea. 

 

In fact, sometimes an opposing view is not sabotage because it provides a new perspective to continuously test and review one’s own ideas so that once you are better prepared and convinced you are right, you would then drive the process to its logical end.

 

I always believed the renaming would become a reality, no matter how long it would have taken.

 

PF: What key lessons have been learnt from the whole process?

 

TT: Over time, there are lessons that have been used as recipes in comparable situations elsewhere. For starters, Namibia has many great thinkers who can move her to greater heights. And those people’s psyche can be further pushed to change this nation forever. The question, however, is, “how and when?” That’s the first lesson.

 

The other lesson is that one must understand that a vision is a long-term and very lonely journey, especially when one sticks his or her head out against all odds. However, never think for a moment that you’re alone while on a (long) journey for a good cause. I mean, even those who cannot move physically do move psychologically. The latter is the ingredient for mass movement - moving a nation forward.

 

The third lesson, and as an insight to this development, is that tradition or politics can do a lot of good with the same intensity as they would do harm to any cause, say, education. Oftentimes, many leaders, irrespective of their biological ages, present themselves as the guardians of tradition - the source from which they derive their authority. They crave for positional authority. This might not always be a bad thing altogether, for it’s a source of social cohesion. But the flip side is, that does not necessarily bring us any closer to our vision as a developing nation (as far as Vision 2030 goes).

 

I, for one, do believe that the power of a politician or leader is not in tradition or in the title and the stagnant position but in what they do with that title.

 

PF: University rankings consistently listed the University of Namibia (Unam) and PoN among Africa’s Top-50 until 2009, with Unam often falling a few places ahead of PoN. But PoN has been ahead of Unam in the recent years, with the Webometrics 2013 listing it at 28th place in Africa (2 284th globally) and Unam at 48th (3 160th globally). What has been the driving force of such success and what will be different this time around?

 

TT: Rankings like Webometrics (Web-rankings) are, in the first place, visibility contests of universities on the world-wide web. They do not really say everything about the actual performance of the institution. Should you, however, rank highly, it would place you in a positive light on the academic scene.

 

Consider, for a moment, that all knowledge has no meaning in the head of an individual if it cannot be intelligibly shared with others. Thus, the ranking is a way to share and a platform for visibility and other possibilities.   

 

Of course the ratings are good for they reflect what we have done fairly well. It is an encouragement for us. You know, it boosts one’s morale a bit to realise that you feature on such research platforms because it attracts other audiences - new partners and the like. Imagine if we would have been rated at 90th place, who would think about us? Who would say, ‘I want to partner with the Polytechnic’?

 

While the rankings might have their place, we should not lose focus of what we are supposed to do as an institution, such as running good academic business that prepares our graduates academically and socially to contribute to knowledge advancement and global economic development more meaningfully.

 

PF: Is this the beginning or the end of the feud between PoN and Unam then? Is it unique to Namibia or is it a global trend? What fans it?

 

TT:Who’s “feuding” with whom? We have not been “feuding” with anyone.  It has not been our agenda and it will not be in future.  But if and when certain people are aggrieved because you are doing something they think you should not be doing without them having the authority, then maybe they are the ones bearing the bad blood, in which case they might think you are also taking their place. 

 

By the way, the least known fact about the relationship between the Poly and Unam is that they co-operate in a number of areas and this is done out of necessity and in the interest of our country.  That said, competition for resources, status and rankings is common place in all countries, and it is thus is “normal” among universities. Whenever technikons sought to change their status to university, they faced resistance from the traditional universities.  It’s like sibling rivalry.

 

This happened in New Zealand for instance. In 2000 government had just renamed the Auckland Institute of Technology [AIT] to the Auckland University of Technology [AUT], which is situated across the street from the University of Auckland [UA]. As you can already imagine, there was resistance from the traditional university until something clicked.

 

This attitude works against the reasoning that since one has a certain status, they must have more money and better prestige and the like. Be it the case or not, an institution with a lower status hardly stands a good chance at fair competition for better students, faculty, conditions of service, prestige or rating, even though there should be a healthy competition.

 

The head of the AIT called upon the vice-chancellor and their “rivalry” was eventually settled. They have since been competing on a levelled playing field. 

 

Yes, a lot of people have asked why there would be need for another university when there is already one in existence, forgetting that there’s need for more access and diversity within an education system. If another player came on board, why would I have an issue with that? If someone would establish their university of, say, engineering with their own money, why would I squeal about that? I emphasise “OWN” money!

 

 

If the Government decides to establish a third or fourth university in Namibia, why would that be a problem?  The national tertiary enrolment is frighteningly low.  There are enough students in Namibia to fill up these two universities, not to mention that there are enough disciplines in the world for us not to end up doing the same thing. However, caution should be exercised not to compromise the system.

 

One can focus on a certain branch of qualifications or research while the other focuses on another branch. So there should be openness in that perspective since some people feel we already have this one university and thus do not need another one. To me, that is just narrow mindedness.

 

Additional universities should be welcomed.  Let’s not create unnecessary paranoia.  Diversity and more options are good things for any economy. 

 

PF: What have been the limitations of being a polytechnic as opposed to being a university?

 

TT:For many years now, the Polytechnic has been, by virtue of its profile - academic offerings and so on - a university of science and technology in the making.

 

The limitations lie in the name or status because the term “polytechnic” historically suggests vocational education, not higher education in its totality. As such, the limitations imposed by that status include misconceptions, poor funding, inadequate partnerships, poor pull-power or appeal, etc. This leads to lost opportunities in a highly competitive environment. Who would wish that upon their children?

 

Nevertheless, universities that have partnered with us globally or had realised that we are capable of meaningful, beneficial partnerships continue to collaborate with us.  But it costs much more effort to get others to take a look at what we do as a polytechnic. This will change henceforth.

 

PF: You have just mentioned funding issues that remind me of the Ministry of Education’s deliberate move, which I am not sure was a personal one or otherwise, to stifle the progress at PoN following the drastic reduction in subsidy. How does such line of thought auger with the national strategic goals or issues around university funding?

 

TT: It must have been personal because there was no rationale behind it. The ministry received an additional N$2 billion in the 2011/2012 budget and as far as I know nobody’s subsidy got cut except the Polytechnic’s. What would you make of that?

 

For starters, there were no reasonable arguments as to why we had to endure a 30% cut. That was an arbitrary act.  There were no analyses of figures to indicate we have been getting too much money and thus had to get less from then onwards. There was no basis for that action, so was it a personal vendetta or what?

 

In short, the current funding regime is completely outdated. It has no consideration for rationale, justice, fairness and transparency. The funding formula currently under construction will hopefully address the prevailing deficiencies. But we also have to try to correct the injustices of the past as much as possible.

 

PF: But how did the Government allow such a decision to prevail?

 

TT: The problem is in the Ministry of Education. That’s the question I raised, and there was never a reasonable answer.  I mean, you cannot start the year and then a month later you are told your subsidy has been reduced by 30%!

 

The root of the problem was, there has never been a funding formula. So without any justification the one in charge can wake up one morning and take away or reduce funding because they can. Simple as that!

 

We are currently working on a funding formula, which will basically show where the money goes and why. For instance, if you study science, you would get more funding per capita, etc. Therefore, there would be more subsidy for an engineering student than for the one who, say, studies education. With that, there will be rationale as to why one should get whatever kind of funding.

 

Unfortunately, the current regime makes no provision for good planning because there’s no certainty or consistency in future funding. That kind of funding does not encourage or foster good performance, neither does it encourage excellence.

 

Imagine if in a certain year you receive a N$150 million subsidy, then the following year you receive N$220 million, and then that drops to N$160 million, only to fall back to N$128 million the year after that! Whomever would be facilitating such changes would be forgetting the fact that you run a system with a certain number students, staff members and so on. You would not be in a position to just eliminate a programme overnight because it takes a minimum of three or four years for a student to earn a degree.

 

I mean, you would have recruited people you could not lay off just like that. It would be impossible to cut a system by 30% otherwise you would have to borrow money to pay back with interest. Such a practice actually erodes the quality of the education system and thus discourages good performance.

 

Fact is, you would want to maintain your IT and Library systems, and so on, and one cannot do all that with the same budget as the previous year’s. The logic lies in understanding that if you bought a computer today, it would need to be maintained and it would cost more money to replace it than it did last year. Even the electricity costs more now than it did last year, so do the books. That’s the inflation we are talking about.

 

You have to factor in the growth as well and that is about maintaining and expanding the system. That was not even considered.

 

PF: While on the growth factor, there was an outcry last year when the Polytechnic was accused of over-enrolling students, which lead to the overcrowding of lecture rooms. Will things be different this time around?

 

TT:We did not over-enrol students last year or the years before. Even this year enrolment has remained roughly the same. The issue is, we enrol young people between the age of 18 and 20 on distance learning because the classes are full. But because they do not hold jobs during the day, they end up wanting to attend classes during the day; that’s how we end up with fulltime and part-time or distance students sharing lecture rooms, hence the perceived overcrowding.

 

As a point of clarity, bad planning, for us, has never been an issue even though we have been accused of inadequacy in that regard. On the contrary, public funding has not been well-planned or executed. 

 

PF: Although your institution has a very elaborate strategic plan - the PSP 3 - which ends this year, how will you fine-tune it to meet this new development?

 

TT:We are already preparing the fourth strategic plan, which will also be the “Transformation Plan”.

 

What one must understand is that strategic planning is very detailed and comprehensive because in it we address the needs of Namibia’s higher education based on what we know and what we want to achieve.  It’s about a vision.  Since we communicate with the industry, when we develop new curricula, we engage curriculum advisory boards, which advise us on the do’s and the don’ts.

 

We also know what happens around the world, so we benchmark. The plans have to be based on the best practices. So it’s not that we are only dreaming about something that may never work out but these are deep-rooted facts that stem from the history of the institution and education in general. That makes the present mandate very specific, viz focusing on science and technology.

 

Science and technology is quite broad - often referred to as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Although these are the main domains, it does not mean we cannot offer business studies because the impression then would be that should one want to take up learning, they would not attend the University of Science and Technology (UST) because there would not be business studies. No, it does not work like that.

 

All universities or institutes of technology may offer programmes in business studies, humanities and so on. However, a UST’s profile and main focus in terms of academic programmes and enrolment remain in the STEM fields.

 

PF: From PoN to the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), will it be the “graduates’” prerogative to be offered job opportunities after the phasing out of one-year diplomas and one-semester certificate courses within the next five years as part of the transition process?

 

TT:Our diploma and certificate programmes have held specific exit points on a bachelor curriculum.  They are all benchmarked against the Namibia Qualifications Framework and other universities globally.

 

The market preference for our graduates has always had less to do simply with the certificate-related tuition and more to do with the level a student reaches. In a country with scarce knowledge and skills, a candidate with more knowledge and skills has, as a matter of logic, better chances of success.  Any of our graduates now [and in the future] will qualify to occupy any suitable position.

 

So far, we have not decided which certificates or diplomas will be retained or introduced. But we are working on new concepts for programmes and articulation with the new colleges (to be established) from certificate to diploma to degree, and so on.

 

Our next year’s graduates will graduate with a UST certificate, even if they have been studying at the Polytechnic, because it works like that.

 

PF: PoN’s 2013 theme is ‘Building Sustainable Futures’, which you have recently been quoted as saying is the institution’s “transformation to develop fully, comprehensibly, consciously and sustainably”. How does this statement blend in with the transition to the new status?

 

TT:Planning and transformation are high on our agenda this year as per our theme. Purposefully building a university is about structuring a sustainable future for the nation. As such, people - whether they attend or not - do build their futures from universities. It suffices to say, then, universities are ideal platforms to build futures. Just for the mere fact that they exist in perpetuity means they define the future more than we would like to appreciate.

 

PF: The student enrolment at PoN is expected to be more than 70% in sciences for degree levels, yet selected diplomas will remain for ‘specialised/focus areas’. Could you tell us which ones these shall be and why?

 

TT:At this moment, the majority (about 60%) of our academic programmes are in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.  And that is a good thing, which also means that the majority of our students should be enrolled in the aforementioned disciplines. Let me clarify this further: the UST will have to grow its enrolment in STEM domains to more than 50% but will also continue to offer old or new programmes or qualifications in other domains, such as business sciences (e.g. accounting, finance, business administration, economics) and human sciences (e.g. journalism, english...). This is the internationally recognised or standard practice. Now we urgently need better and appropriate funding to build the requisite infrastructure.

 

PF: Will PoN need more qualified lecturers to complement its new status when the transition is complete and how will you bridge the gap given the skills deficiency in Namibia?

 

TT:We have always needed more qualified lecturers than we could get, at least quantitatively speaking. But yes, the number of doctorates (faculty and students) needs to grow in order for the staff complement to befit a university with a respectable scholarship [academic and research] profile. 

 

We have earlier alluded to the fact that our programmes will be biased towards science and technology; note then that we will also be introducing more programmes at Master’s and Doctoral levels. Hence, our operations will be augmented to ensure that we deliver effectively in these areas.

 

The Poly already has a good global standing. Thus, the change shall come with more and enhanced networks and reputation.

 

PF: The Cabinet instructed the Education Ministry to spearhead the establishment of a high-level inter-ministerial committee, comprising the ministries of Education, Finance, Trade and Industry, Labour and Social Welfare, Home Affairs and immigration, Works and Transport, Information and Communication Technology and the National Planning Commission (NPC) to facilitate the higher education reform. Could you tell us how each one of them will be involved as far as the transition process is concerned?

 

TT: As Poly, we have been building the new university in many ways, although much of it is now about reforming the old institution. Therefore, we can only intensify our efforts and the transformation process. As for the engagement of other stakeholders, they all have an important role to play. But that question should be put to the co-ordinating ministry - the Education Ministry.

 

PF: How will the transition impact on the internationalisation process, particularly learning, research and teaching?

 

TT:I have always emphasised the importance of internationalisation of higher education. This is extremely important for benchmarking, for enriching our own curricula, systems etc. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel!

 

PF: The institutions of higher learning have often come under fire for producing “unfinished products”. What is your take on this and how will you do things differently to provide the requisite skills Namibia needs?

 

TT:I presume that ‘unfinished’ here means “not ready for the job market”. First of all, the global knowledge domain grows incessantly. Secondly, the content of expert knowledge in some fields changes numerous times in the career of a professional. This was different half a century ago when knowledge seemed to be more timeless. 

 

Today, education cannot “manufacture” graduates who enter a job market with cutting-edge knowledge, disciplinary skills and competences, unless such attributes are inculcated into the curriculum.

 

As such, graduates must be highly adaptable to exit a university with a high level of utility for self or the prospective employer. This is what we do at the Poly and will continue doing as UST.

 

By the way, the primary question is whether or not all institutions produce high quality graduates.  A good graduate should perform well after proper orientation and probation period.

 

In short, I beg to differ that all local graduates are “unfinished products”. The generalisation should be treated with the contempt it deserves because it accuses everyone, even the good performers, of being incompetent. 

 

PF: How will the transition impact on both the internal and external funding of PoN?

 

TT:Transformation is not just a verbal exercise. It is a real change with real actions and anticipated outcomes. To do justice to this cause, there should be a dedicated fund for the transformation from the Namibian government, for which we are seeking money, while external funding will come through partnerships for other activities, such as research.

 

PF: According to Cabinet’s directive, the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) should develop a comprehensive academic planning framework for higher education institutions in Namibia. Do you think such institutions should undertake this process by themselves?

 

TT:Planning [and its framework] is an individual, as well as a joint effort. Each institution should be responsible for their own but they should also collaborate with the others, including the NCHE, which in turn will lead in certain areas.

 

PF: Most people have taken aim at your leadership style (hands-on approach) Are their criticisms far-fetched?

 

TT:It would be too Machiavellistic to say, “Judge the style by its results.” But yes, I do think the outcomes warrant the legitimate and appropriate means in which they have been achieved. Let us keep in mind what a hands-on approach stands for: keeping an ear on the ground and fix what’s wrong now!

 

We all have a duty to the society - to be the best in all we do. It is my prerogative, as the leader of this institution, to optimise its operations - working efficiently and effectively. What my leadership style has achieved thus far is self-evident.

 

PF: Where to from here, now that the status has been granted?

 

TT:We have a pro-active agenda. When we got the green light from Government last December to rename the Poly, we started the year by putting tyre to tar. In fact, we had already put a template for the new plan on the table in December, positioning ourselves for the next plan. So when the final Cabinet directive came, it basically fit our intent very well. 

 

We hope that Government will table to Parliament the Amendment Act in due time.  We have already submitted the Draft Bill for the new institution. We hope that in the next few months, consultations and discussions will be held to frame the new Bill.

 

So come 01 January 2014, we should start the academic year as NUST or UST, if you like.

 

The good thing about this is that the request has been positively received and we can now look forward to the future with the hope for good progress. Of course there is still a lot of work ahead of us but that’s what we are about. We have to deliver in that respect.

 

However, do not forget that transformation is a long process. We are still far from completely getting the work done but as it is with every institution that undergoes a transition, you should not remain as you were five years ago. Otherwise, you would not be in business in the first place.

 

Transformation has to do with change, which is literally change everywhere. So complete transformation will take some time but the immediate things, such as the plan, must be on the table soonest, although it is not a requirement. It is important for us, though, not to start a new venture with an old plan.

 

When the name change comes, so will everything that comes with it, including the letterheads. How exciting is that!

 

PF: How long do you still have in your contact to bask in your achievement?

 

TT:I still have time left on my contract, which I will serve out. Its renewal will be at the pleasure of the board because that’s its prerogative.

 

PF: Have you ever been head hunted by any top corporate company?

 

TT:It happens to the best of us. Yes it has happened but I have had the desire to stay and finish what I started; I could never leave it hanging.  So until my dream was fully realised, I could not avail myself to accommodate new ventures.

 

Everyone has a vision in life. For me, I had a mission to accomplish; to transform this institution to be the Namibia University of Science and Technology.  The future is here!

 

PF: What will we remember you for?

 

TT: I do not know whether or not it is justifiable but all I can tell you is, I’m self-motivated, highly driven, dedicated and loyal. I’m a focused and visionary individual.

 

I hope I have carried my task with dignity and I’m forever thankful to the Namibian government and my fellow citizens for the unique opportunity to serve the nation in this capacity. I also thank everyone else - within the borders and overseas - who has made my journey the joy it has been. I believe I have made a decent and remarkable contribution to education nationally and globally.

 

Let’s reflect, but more importantly let’s live in the future.PF

 

PROFILE

Prof Tjama Tjivikua Founding Rector:  Polytechnic of Namibia

 

Born on 27 July 1958 at Otjomupanda, Otjozundjupa Region, Namibia, Tjama Tjivikua is one of 12 children born to a teacher (father) and a nurse (mother).  He grew up in Oruuua in the then Ovitoto Reserve, and started primary school in 1967 at St. Barnabas in the Old Location, Windhoek.  His family moved to Katutura at the end of the forced removal of blacks from Old Location. 

 

He continued with primary education in Katutura (1968-1969) at the now Berthold Himumuine Primary School, then moved to Otjinene Primary School (1970-1973) when his father became the founding principal at Okondjatu Primary School.  He completed Standard 6 (Grade 8) there in 1973 and then moved to Okakarara.

 

Secondary School (1974-1975), and finally to Augustineum Secondary School (1976-1978) in Windhoek.  Throughout his school years, he was keenly engaged in athletic and enjoyed a variety of sports – 100 m sprint, long jump, high jump, soccer, and tennis.  Upon completion of high school, Tjama worked at the main branch of Barclays Bank (now First National bank) in Windhoek as a ‘Waste Clerk’.

 

During his school years, Tjama sought to study in the U.S.A. and left Namibia in June 1979.  Equipped with the United Nations Scholarship endowed by the U.N. High Commission for Namibia, he studied Chemistry at Rockland Community College (1979-1980) and then Lincoln University (1980-1983), where he graduated cum laude(B.A. with many awards and honours). 

 

He pursued graduate studies at the University of Lowell (now University of Massachusetts, Lowell) (M.S., 1983-1985), then University of Pittsburgh (Ph.D., 1985-1990).  He completed his thesis on molecular recognition in organic chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1989-1990).  His scientific work, which triggered a media trifecta, received wide international coverage and has been published and cited in scientific journals and other magazines as it has added new intelligence to the body of scientific knowledge.

 

Tjama worked as Teaching Assistant and Researcher while a student, and taught at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania as Assistant Professor of Chemistry (1990-1995) before assuming the post of Founding Rector at the Polytechnic of Namibia in 1995, where he is now serving for his 18th year of tenure.  Tjivikua is a man of firsts: he has always performed at the top or upper end of his class; he is the first in his family to graduate at all university degree levels; and is probably the first Namibian doctorate in pure (natural) science; he is one of the few second-generation Namibian doctorates; and one of first doctoral honorees at his age in 2006. 

 

Prof Tjivikua has remained a dedicated educator and citizen and an advocate of productivity, efficiency, academic excellence, technology, entrepreneurship and innovation.  He has served on national and international bodies such as President of the African Division of the International Association of Science Parks (IASP) (2010-2013), Vice-President of the Southern African Technology Network (SATN) (2011-present), National Planning Commission (1998-2006), Namibia Qualifications Authority (1997-present), Namibia Council for Higher Education (2006-present) and national trusts dedicated to the advancement of society, such as the Gobabeb Training and Research Centre since 2002.  He holds business interests in the financial sector, farming and other areas. 

 

Prof Tjivikua’s inspirational and visionary leadership is evident in the following awards and honours bestowed on him: D.Litt. (Honoris Causa) for outstanding contributions to higher education and as one of the most dedicated and committed humanitarians (2013) - Lincoln University (PA), USA; D.Sc. (Honoris Causa) for exceptional contributions to the development of higher education in Namibia (2006) – Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), USA; Service Excellence Award:  Junior Achievement Namibia (2010); Education Persona – Namibia Business Hall of Fame (2010); Bank Windhoek Business Communicator of the Year Award (2008);  Life Fellow: Centres for Leadership and Public Values, University of Cape Town and Duke University (2005); International Biographical Centre, Who’s Who in the 21st Century 2001; and Outstanding Young Man of America (1985). 

 

As a student, he received the following awards: American Chemical Society Award, Lincoln University (1983) - as the best chemistry graduate from the university; Jessie B. Plummer Memorial Medal, Lincoln University (1983); Bradley Gold Medal, Lincoln University (1983), James Birnie Memorial Award, Lincoln University (1983), Wilbert A. Tatum - Saligrama C. Subbarao Award, Lincoln University (1983); Special Service Award, Lincoln University (1982, 1983); and Citations in German, Lincoln University (1981, 1982).

 

Driven by Prof Tjivikua’s vision of the Polytechnic becoming one of Africa’s leading science and technology universities, innovation and entrepreneurship have become pillars of the institution’s development strategy as well as focal areas of its national and regional development efforts, particularly in niche areas and where potential exists to make a unique and lasting impact. 

 

From offering the three year National Diploma as the highest qualification in 1996, the Polytechnic is now offering the Bachelor, Honors and Master degrees at international standards.  Thousands of graduates of the institution are extensively and prominently employed in the Namibian economy, armed with relevant qualifications, technical skills and relevant competencies.  Following an application to the Government of Namibia for renaming, the Cabinet of the Republic of Namibia in December 2012 granted the right to the Polytechnic to be renamed as Namibia University of Science and Technology.  This is indeed a most important development in the Namibian higher education sector and will be achieved in 2013.  

 

The Polytechnic has been recognised for several years since 2002 as the best tertiary education institution in Namibia in the annual Public Management Review (PMR) and has won the Diamond Arrow Award (Top Prize) since 2009.  In 2011, the Polytechnic was awarded the Golden Key Award by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) as the most open and transparent government/public institution in Namibia. 

 

The Polytechnic has won several international awards in disciplines such as architecture, business, information technology, journalism and media technology, and geo-information systems:  the Silver Pigeon Award, an international prize awarded to the best national architectural design, London (2012), - best award out of 35 country participants; Award of Excellence for Institutional Achievement in Distance Education (2010);  Cisco Local Academy Award (2009); UNESCO Centre of Excellence in Journalism/Media Technology (2007) – one of 12 journalism excellence centres in Africa; Cisco Global Recognition Award for Excellence in Teaching (2007) - being the only Sub-Saharan institution to receive the award; Special Achievement Award in Geographic Information System (GIS) Education - San Diego, California, USA (2009) - for its extraordinary contributions to the global society by raising the quality of GIS education and training in Africa; Cisco Best Local Academy Award (2009) - being one of only two African institutions to receive the award; and the prestigious Eduniversal Palms Award International Scientific Committee of Eduniversal (2009) - recognizing the Polytechnic’s School of Business and Management (SBM) as one of the world’s most influential business schools amongst one thousand best business schools from over 150 countries.  

 

Indeed, the Polytechnic has established the Southern Africa regional centre of specialisation in land management (1997), as well as the first engineering school (1997) and first graduate business school (2008) in Namibia.

 

Prof Tjivikua’s development efforts are concentrated on aligning the Polytechnic’s qualifications, research and community outreach to international standards and national development programmes as articulated in Namibia’s National Development Plans (NDPs) and Vision 2030.  Thus the establishment of several Centres of Excellence: Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL); Centre for Cooperative Education (CCE); Centre for Entreprise Development (CED); Centre for Open and Lifelong Learning (COLL); Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Institute (REEEI); the Namibian-German Centre for Logistics (NGCL); and the Namibia Business Innovation Centre (NBIC), the latter a national hub for the stimulation and nurturing of creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship and technological development. 

 

This is strong evidence of his passion and determination to set the Polytechnic as a key driver of the socio-economic transformation needed to propel Namibia to higher standards of global economic competitiveness.

 

Under Prof Tjivikua’s leadership, good corporate governance and performance have always been hallmarks of the Polytechnic of Namibia.  This is evident in the significant growth of the institution over the past seventeen years: the institution has balanced its budgets with unqualified financial audits; qualifications increased from 23 to more than 120, including several internationally recognised Master’s degrees; the asset base grew in value from approximately N$ 30 million (U$5 million) to more than N$ 1 billion (U$120 million); enrolment (student numbers) increased from approximately 2 500 in 1996 to about 13 000 in 2013; and the staff complement has grown from about 130 to about 900. 

 

The institution has many international partnerships, which entail institutional cooperation, faculty/scholar and student exchanges, and joint research.  The Polytechnic has a footprint throughout Namibia and many international and exchange students have studied at, or graduated from, the Polytechnic.

 

On 19 March 2013, Prof Tjivikua received the honorary medal from Germany’s FH Aachen – Aachen University of Applied Sciences, as an academic honour and gratitude for the groundbreaking collaboration between the universities (with the Polytechnic of Namibia).

 

In the FinWeekMagazine article titled: The Crème de la Crème(28 September 2006), Prof Tjivikua was recognised in a national survey as one of the 12 most prominent and respected members of the Namibian society, “for having set up an excellent institution widely regarded as overshadowing the University of Namibia”.   All in all, this is a profile of a visionary leader and outstanding achiever. PF