Unam to Set Up Engineering Faculty

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By William Mbangula OSHAKATI A fully-fledged Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology to be established at Unam Northern Campus at Ongwediva will cost about N$250 million over a 10-year period, says Head of Engineering and Technology at Unam Professor Frank Kavishe. At least N$25 million will be needed every year to develop the new faculty until it is completed on a 13-hectare piece of land donated by the Ongwediva Town Council near Valombola Vocational Training Centre. The two educational institutions are expected to work closely. “We are waiting for the government to provide funds so that we could start developing the land and the infrastructure,” said Kavishe. As is the case with the pre-medical programme, Unam sources said, the institution has been running a pre-engineering programme in which undergraduate students transfer to collaborating universities in South Africa after completing two years at Unam. The number and variety of engineering students who trained through the programme has been very small. However, with the establishment of the new faculty, the situation is expected to change. The medical school, which is expected to be located in Oshakati and is currently being promoted together with the Engineering Faculty, is expected to be realised within the next 15 years. Currently Unam offers aspiring medical students a two-year pre-medical pro-gramme before they can proceed to other universities in South Africa. Unam believes that the Medical School is indispensable hence the current arrangement to establish in the first three years the faculties of Nursing Science, Paramedical Science, and the Institute of Public Health and Graduate Studies. Later the Faculty of Medical Sciences and Pharmaceutical Sciences will follow. It is envisaged that the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology would start with 160 students in Electrical and Computer Engineering, with at least 10 lecturers headed by a professor. Kavishe noted that Unam had a choice to pick land on which to build the faculty following offers from the three local authorities of Oshakati, Ongwediva and Ondangwa. Unam found Ongwediva more appropriate. The other land offered will still be utilised for future academic development purposes. For the time being the Northern campus is expected to have three sites in Oshakati, Ogongo and Ongwediva. Since 2000, Unam has been admitting students to its pre-engineering programme at its main campus while at the same time building capacity towards the establishment of a fully-fledged Faculty of Engineering and Technology. In addition, Unam has instituted a foundation programme at its Northern Campus to which students with weak marks in Mathematics and science at High School level are admitted. Upon successful completion of the foundation programme, students are admitted to the Faculty of Science or pre-medical and pre-engineering programme at the main campus in Windhoek. As part of the various efforts to establish the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, Unam is currently networking with several universities in the world. One of these institutions is the University of Indiana in the United States of America. Already officials from the University of Indiana visited Oshakati Northern campus recently to familiarise themselves with the situation on the ground. The two visitors were Professor Oner Yurtseven who is the Head of the School of Engineering and Technology and Assistant Professor Tim Diemer, the Director of International Services, Orga-nisational Leadership and Supervision. During the visit, Professor Yurtseven delivered a lecture on the topic of engineering education in the USA and how Namibia could benefit from it. The lecture was attended by potential students, community members as well as some prominent Windhoek-based Unam staff members. The visitors from the USA also attended the Unam Northern Campus 9th graduation ceremony at Ongwe-diva recently, where President Hifikepunye Pohamba described them as “important partners”. About two years ago Namibian Founding President and Unam Chancellor Dr Sam Nujoma spearheaded the fundraising campaign at Ongwediva with the purpose to establish the Faculty of Engineering/Information Technology and Medical School (ENGIMED). At this Engimed appeal held at the Ongwediva Trade Fair Centre on September 10, 2004, Dr Nujoma pledged N$5000, an ox, sheep and goat. Other significant contributors among more than 150 were: NamDeb N$50 000, Nam-Power N$50 000, Standard Bank N$45 000, Bank Wind-hoek N$25 000, Old Mutual N$20 000, Roads Authority N$20 000, Namibia Breweries N$15 000, Afrox N$10 000, Dirk Fruit N$10 000, Metropolitan N$10 000, MTC N$10 000, Unam Northern Campus N$10 000 and Legal Shield N$7 500. One of the most significant contributions could come from the Road Construction Company RCC) which, although it has contributed N$5 000, has at the same time pledged to build a laboratory for the faculty with modern equipment which may cost close to N$400 000. According to the Vice Chancellor of Unam Professor Lazarus Hangula who personally pledged during the fundraising campaign to contribute N$20 000 over five years, the money which was close to N$460 000 (excluding donations in kind) collected during that fund-raising campaign would be used to service the allocated land at Ongwediva. Besides, the University Council has already put aside about N$4,5 million to lay the foundation of the first building. “We welcome any support that we can get. We are also ready to name one of the buildings after any person, institution or Government that helps Unam to erect it. Truly speaking, without engineering, Namibia can forget talking about Vision 2030,” said Hangula. The University of Na-mibia was established in 1992 and has since then become what some people term the reservoir of expertise and the educational development partner of choice for many people in Namibia. As a result it has played a significant role in resolving pressing technological and socio-economic problems in the country.