NYS Does It for the Community

ON a small farm between Otavi and Grootfontein in the Otjozondjupa region, we meet a group of National Youth Service (NYS) trainees who have defeated the gender stereotypes.

These young women and men strive to excel in careers that are traditionally meant for the opposite gender.

The NYS Rietfontein Training Centre provides them with a platform to turn their dreams into reality. The centre currently has 559 trainees who are given free training and accommodation.

In line with the curriculum changes, which require a g vocational and technical component, President Hifikepunye Pohamba in his speech delivered by the Minister of Education, David Namwandi, applauded the NYS for responding to government’s request.

Pohamba said it is government’s belief that education and training enhance opportunities for full participation in economic development.

“I am delighted to note that the NYS, in line with our national objectives, has taken on the challenge of developing employable skills in our youth,” he said, adding that this will reduce unemployment in the country.

Farm Rietfontein situated on 1 616 hectares of land, produces different crops such as white and yellow maize, vegetables and Blue Buffet hay. You also get cattle, goats, sheep and game such as kudus on the farm.

NYS spokesperson Johanna Kambala said the NYS enables the youth to share common experiences and encourage notions of equality. This, she says, is done in three phases.

Phase one, done in collaboration with the Namibia Defence Force and the police, deals with civic training takes three to six months.

Phase two is for voluntary service to promote social responsibility amongst the youth. Trainees have so far assisted at hospitals, clinics, on rural feeder roads and NYS agricultural projects. The training period for this course takes anything between six months and two years.

Phase three involves skills training to prepare the youth for the job market.

Most female trainees, who have taken up what were traditional male jobs, said apart from the passion that influenced their choice, they wanted to break the stereotype about women not being able to carry out jobs such as plastering, mechanical work, plumbing, bricklaying and pipe fitting.

Hendrina Fernando, a plumbing and pipe-fitting level two trainee, said she has chosen this field because she had an undying love for water and pipes since growing up.

Born and bred in Grootfontein, Fernando said she also loves plumbing because she finds it quite interesting. She also said that lack of plumbers in Namibia motivated her to take up the trade.

The 26-year-old joined NYS in 2011 and did her civic training in Ondangwa before moving to Rudnu District Hospital for her voluntary service. She started skills training in 2013, which she said was tough at the beginning, but everything eventually blended in.

“It was tough in level one. I thought I would not make it to level two, but now it’s easy. I would love to go and continue with my level three and level four,” she says.

“Women have moved. They are there, but they are discriminated against,” Kakuizike Chris, training officer for plumbing and pipe-fitting said, while watching Fernando work.

A statement that students don’t seem to agree with, Fernando said she was never discriminated against by her male counterparts when she started the programme, but only struggled because the activities required greater strength.

She aised other young women to follow in her footsteps, as she believes women can also make it far in life.

“It’s no longer a man’s world,” Fernando said, smiling confidently.

In plumbing and pipe-fitting, they have 20 women and 30 men, with Sofia Paulus who received the award as best plumbing and pipe- fitting trainee.

Meanwhile, men are also trying to break the stereotype of ‘women belong in the kitchen,’ as quite a few have taken up modules in hospitality, food amp beverages, hairdressing and cosmetology.

Entering the hairdressing room, there was one man amongst the many ladies practising how to curl hair with flex rods. This was Olavi Haindere who said he has a passion for doing hair and this has motivated him to take up the profession.

Haindere said he came from a remote area, and people would cut their hair with bottles which he didn’t think was appropriate.

“I now want to learn, go back and do a better job for my community. Both men and women,” he said.

He too said he struggled to adjust to the activities at first but persevered to get it right. Haindere who hails from Okavango region received the award as the best student in hairdressing and cosmetology Level One.

He says if women can do it, he can do it too.

The passion-driven 23-year-old said he wants to open up his salon back in Katima Mulilo and employ others.

NYS brick laying trainee officer, Mariana Mushona, who was trained at Valombola Vocational Training Centre, is now content with what she does, despite the many critics she had to endure.

Mushona said she had a choice of going to college but opted for the vocational centre after her Grade 12 as she was more keen to do practical work than theory. She said at the beginning she faced criticism even from other trainees who would ask her why she chose a male dominated trade.

“My trainees would always feel sorry for me during training and they would ask if I was not tired. Even my parents did not think I would get a job,” she says, adding: “Some people would also say a brick-laying lady will never give birth because she will strain her self and become infertile.”

Mushona, who is now a mother to a three-year-old girl, says the infertility claim is just a myth as even her classmates at the time who are and once were brick layers have children.

She said another reason why she did not give up was because she felt this was a God-given chance. Although she admits that she doubted herself at first, she was motivated by her job attachments.

“I would be more and more motivated every time after my job attachments. I also managed, because even the boys in class would help us and not discourage us. They too played a major role in guiding us, especially when the instructor was not present,” she said.

She worked for two years as a bricklayer in the industry after her graduation, adding that her parents only began to understand after she went to further her studies at the Polytechnic of Namibia as a vocational instructor.

“Only then they saw I have a future in this industry and realised it’s not so bad after all as I also got a job part-time.”

Hoping to attract more females on this field in the future, Mushona said she has five girls in her class and 18 boys.

She said it’s not difficult to teach both, adding that the girls do better in theory compared to practicals.

“At times girls struggle because they find the activities too hard for them and do not want to get dirty as they are more conscious about their appearance,” she says, adding that after practising, they adapt.

“It’s not difficult to teach them at all. When they start, we introduce them to the field and we explain to them their possible opportunities available once they have completed the course.

“When they practice, they feel it’s more needed. Even when they go home for holidays, they get to practice how to make bricks and build proper houses, which increases their confidence,” Mushona said.

Kambala pointed out that the centre struggles with funds due to lack of financial resources.

She said the budget has dwindled every year although the demand has been going up. The NYS receives up to 20 000 application forms a year which are sent to constituency offices around the country.

Source : The Namibian