Newly elected president of the Namibia National Students Organization (Nanso) Ester Simon says she was not wheelbarrowed into the position on the basis of her gender and has what it takes to rebuild, realign and reunite the ailing student organisation.
In recent times, Nanso has fallen victim to critics who say the Nanso of old is no more.
It is even worse as for many former members it would seem that Nanso does no longer exist.
The once proud student’s movement which played a significant role in Namibia’s quest for independence is now characterised by more rhetoric rather than action.
Nanso has been accused of losing focus and of having deviated from its core mandate as was the case in the late 80s and early 90s when the organization kept authorities and students on the same wavelength.
Nanso’s main aim was to unite all students to fight for the right to free quality education and abolish Bantu education.
During the 80s, Nanso and Namibia faced a common enemy in the form of apartheid South Africa.
This made it easier to forge forces together with a single aim to defeat the enemy and bring about political independence and right to self-determination to Namibia.
The present day Nanso, however, is faced with an avalanche of challenges.
These include the decline in the quality of education (characterized by under and unqualified teachers) ; escalating tertiary education cost; learner pregnancy; late disbursement of student loans; substance abuse among students; an underfunded free education and miscued priorities (student politics) to list but a few.
In the eyes of many, Nanso has failed to live up to its billing in terms of addressing student issues.
However, the past two years have seen a reincarnated Nanso, one which dominated headlines for putting the student agenda at the fore.
Chief among them is the call for free tertiary education, abolishment of university registration fees and the construction of a student village – all which is yet to see the light of day.
Nanso’s new leadership that was elected at their just ended congress is made up of Simon (president), Bernhard Kavau (vice president), Simon Taapopi (secretary general) and Emma Ganuses (deputy SG).
In an interview with The Patriot, recently, Simon who is the first Nanso female president shared her vision for the student movement while also pin-pointing where the organization may have gone wrong.
From the word go, Swakopmund-born Simon made it clear that under her watch, students’ hopes and aspiration will be central in Nanso.
Simon’s Nanso is premised on three pillars, they are rebuilding, reuniting and realigning the movement. The three pillars will be accompanied by policy development and implementation; campus and community engagement and international relations and cooperation.
From the onset, Simon brushed off claims that she ascended to Nanso’s presidency on the gender ticket.
“I keep on saying that we should not use the gender ticket to wheelbarrow people into positions of leadership but their credentials. There are women out there that are capable. So we don’t need the 50/50 gender structure to give people positions that they don’t deserve,” said Simon before adding that one cannot shy away from admitting that women have been side-lined for far too long in society.
Simon stressed that “women can and are capable of leading” and that “having an equal representation doesn’t mean having women that are not capable at the expense of capable men or having men that are not capable at the expense of capable women. It should be about credentials”.
The combative Simon spoke briefly claims that Nano’s vision had been abandoned and that the movement no longer represents student interests, rights and wellbeing.
“Personally, I will not run away nor shy from the fact that the organisation has sort of lost its vision and mandate. It’s quite unfortunate that we had a past leadership that didn’t share a common vision for the organization where we had a battle of personalities of people having different ideologies. So when you have camps within a structure, that brings the downfall of the organisation,” she said without going into detail.
Simon, who for the past two years served as Nanso’s secretary for gender equally took blame for the organization’s downfall for she was a member its national executive committee (NEC), Nanso’s highest decision making body.
She is however adamant that fortunes will turn for the better with her at the helm of Namibia’s biggest student organization.
“The new elected leadership is united and we share a common vision which is to reinstate Nanso to be a student organization. To go back to the drawing board and understand when this organisation was established, what the vision was and what the mission was,” she added.
She said Nanso should guard against being a field for political battles but ought to be at the forefront of student issues.
“We can’t have Nanso where instead of fighting the student agenda, we are fighting personal battles where it’s Ester and the VP fighting each other because they belong to different political parties or ideology. We understand that Nanso has a common vision and sole purpose. And I need set aside my political agenda. He[VP] needs to set aside his political agenda and joint forces for the betterment of our members,” briefly stated the 23-year-old post-graduate communications student at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).
Simon indicated that international relations and cooperation will factor in greatly at Nanso, in view that Namibia is part of the global community.
“We are planning on seeking for more platforms on which Nanso can be represented internationally. Because you need to understand that an injury to one (country) is an injury to all,” she charged.