Windhoek-A security guard at one of Namibia’s universities has embarked on an inspiring journey of self-development when she successfully enrolled for a degree in criminal justice in policing at the very institution she guards during the day.
Simsolia Shapopi now does her security work guarding the architectural building during the day, and at night she walks into one of the lecture halls as a student at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).
Shapopi is not alone. Victoria Nikanor, 34, who has been a cleaner for 11 years at the University of Namibia, abandoned the mops and brooms in 2016 to attend full-time classes at the university as a student teacher.
The two Havana informal settlement residents separately share their inspiring stories of perseverance.
Clad in her security guard black and white uniform, Shapopi stands at the glass structure of the building and directs the reporter to the Architectural Building that she guards. Before the reporter reaches her, Shapopi simultaneously carries out her duty by inspecting a student’s card and allows them to enter the building. In addition to her task at the Architectural Building, Shapopi views CCTV footage on a screen and monitors what is happening in the building.
Just before the interview, Shapopi asks her colleague to excuse her and invites the journalist to sit outside for an uninterrupted interview.
Shapopi tells New Era she started enquiring about mature-age entry in 2016 after a man who came to the university’s library asked her why she wasn’t studying to which she responded that she does not have the financial means to study.
The man informed Shapopi that lack of money and less academic points (grades) shouldn’t deter her from acquiring a university degree as she can enrol at a university through mature age entry and get funding from Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF).
But before that encounter, Shapopi already had the desire to study and was upgrading her grade 12 points with Namibia College of Open Learning where she scored 21 points.
During 2016, Shapopi then asked the university staff to explain to her what mature age entry is all about. Mature age involves aspiring candidates who do not met the entry requirements to write Mathematics and an English test. These candidates should also have some work experience. Shapopi then sat for the entry test towards end of 2016 and passed the Mature Entry Test and was duly accepted as a student at NUST. She also secured a NSFAF loan to pay for her tuition fees.
Shapopi who aspires to become a crime investigator, sometimes attends her lectures in her works’ uniform if she didn’t get time to change.
“My classmates know I am a security guard. When we started the course last year we introduce ourselves and what we do. In addition to that, my fellow students are understanding when I sometimes can’t meet up for group assignments as they know I can’t leave the site I am guiding” remarked the second year student. If she can’t meet up with the students she makes sure to send her contribution.
When lectures ends, Shapopi – a mother of one seven-year-old daughter, normally arrives at her solar powered shack at 22:00 and by this time her daughter is already sleeping. “I normally go to bed at midnight. Sometimes, when I get home I have to wash my uniform and attend to my school work before going to bed. I only sleep for four hours. I am up by 04:00 to prepare for work. By 05:00 I should be at the pick-up point,” she remarked that she doesn’t always has time to attend lectures.
One of the challenges Shapopi faces is when she works night shift. This sometimes means she can’t attend her lectures also at times, her supervisor does not allow her to leave her site to attend lectures for few hours. She also adds that many a times after her night shift has ended in the morning, she doesn’t go home but remains on campus to do her schoolwork.
She encourages the youth sitting at home to take up whatever job is available and study on the side. “Some people don’t want to work as security guards for whatever reason, but being a guard shouldn’t limit you to strive for better things in life”.
At the same time, Nikanor, a former cleaner for a company contracted by Unam, is a second year diploma student in Junior Primary Education.
During 2016 she sat down for mature age entry test at Unam which she passed and was accepted. Before that Nikanor started off by attending Adult Upper Education Certificate which she completed in 2016. During the same year Nikanor enrolled for short course in English at the Unam Language Centre. Nikanor said her encouragement comes from her former colleague, an old lady who told her it was never too late to study.
Nikanor, a mother of two also said her neighbour, another elderly lady who was study through Life-long Learning Centre at our Main Campus, inspired her to study.
“I told myself, if she can do it, why not me, “stated Nikanor who added that the problem is when one is demoralised into thinking that you cannot achieve anything. After Unam accepted her and she got her NSFAF acknowledgement letter, she left her cleaning job in January 2017.
An excited Nikanor was quick to point out that she is coping at university and does not have any subjects to repeat from her first year of study.
Nikanor has no income right now as she left her job where she earned N$ 1 990, and is therefore unable to financially support her children. She is, however, optimistic that in few years things will improve.
“I tell my older son that I am no longer employed as I am attending school just like him. I tell him not to worry as in few years I will be able to assist him better than before”.