WINDHOEK – Thomas Neema says The University Centre for Studies in Namibia (TUCSIN), which this week celebrated its 40th anniversary, brought him to where he is today.
He was the best part-time learner at TUCSIN in 2004.
Neema, currently a Researcher of Indigenous Plant Genetic Resource at the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, attended TUCSIN’s Khomasdal campus, upgrading his marks in Biology and Environmental Management. “With the help of my teachers, I managed to score “A” grade in Biology and “B” in Environmental Management. Apart from that, I was the best student in the whole country at part-time level that year,” says Neema about the year 2004. He adds that his performance at TUCSIN really pushed up his points, which allowed him to enrol for a Natural Resource Management course at the then Polytechnic of Namibia, now the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST). For scoring the highest symbols in all his subjects, he was rewarded with N$ 500. “For me, TUCSIN is an institution with effective teachers who seriously understand the essence of education, such as that education means nothing unless there is learning taking place and that education in Namibia is a national security issue.”
Neema was in Ondangwa in the Oshana Region and grew up in an extended family, cultivating mahangu, sorghum, cowpeas, bambara nuts, as well as herding cattle after school, collecting fire wood, cooking, fetching water and milking cows to mention a few. “Though there was always enough food at home, I had to walk long distances going to school with the little money that my mom gave me, there was hardly any soap for bathing and body lotion. Being bullied at school by the older pupils, hunger at school (no lunchbox or money to buy something to eat at school),” says Neema, adding that to overcome the challenges, he simply acknowledged the situation he was in, and fully understood her mother and grandmother’s hard efforts to make ends meet.
“I also took serious note of the advice of both my mother and grandmother to study hard as they have been emphasising that the only way to end poverty was through studying hard. About the bullying experience, I just never fought my enemy back. And this way I discouraged them from bullying me further,” he said.
“Having lived with my grandmother, I knew that, should I decide to not go to school one day, grandmother would make sure that she keeps me busy the whole day until when school come out, simply to teach me a lesson, that this is how people with no education work,” he described how his grandmother motivated and pushed him to success. His desire for conserving the indigenous wild of the country got him into this field. He has worked as a Community-Based Natural Resource Management promotion officer for the Community Forestry Project, and the Wildlife Communal Conservancies Programme through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, before working as a researcher.
Currently Neema is busy with his Master’s degree in Higher Education through distance learning at the University of South Africa (UNISA). His goal is to have most of the environmental issues that plague Namibia today, mainstreamed fully in the formal education curriculum. He encourages seemingly dejected youth that unlike what they think, the world out there has been waiting for them to bring about changes in their respective communities, advising them to take education seriously, as one of many ways to make it in life.