Celina Kafute Awala, a Lecturer and a single mother of four, pursuing a Doctorate of Spatial Science with a sponsorship from DAAD at NUST shares her experiences with NELGA and the DAAD program.
I was born on 01 June 1981 and raised in the small village of Onamanape in the then Ombalantu district, in northern Namibia closer to Namibia-Angola borders. My father was a seasonal worker in Walvis Bay and my mother was a housewife and subsistence farmer. My parents did not have any formal education, however, my mother through the Roman Catholic church, learnt how to read the bible and eventually started preaching and taught other people catechisms for baptism which led them to be given national documents. I am the lastborn of seven from my mother and my father, however, my father was a polygamist, so we were 16 altogether from our two mothers. Growing up, our house was a happy place and I pretty happy childhood.
My early education was pretty memorable. I attended my primary education at Onembaba Combined School. Even though the school was far from home and there was no clock in our house, my mother would wake me up at dawn to get to school and arrive most times before my teachers. I loved school. It was a place where I met my friends, played a lot and shared meals. After school, I looked after our goats, again another place for interaction and play. I attended secondary school at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic High School, outside Windhoek, the capital city. This was a life-changing experience, from village to boarding school, especially with English and Afrikaans that were mostly used for communication in the hostel and at school. However, I eventually caught up. This is where I learnt about responsibility, being on my own, and survival.
Upon completing high school in 2000, I applied for electrical engineering at the then Polytechnic of Namibia (now Namibia University of Science and Technology, NUST), however, I failed the mathematics entry test. On the last day of registration, without much information on the options, as I browsed through the prospectus, I stumbled on Land Management, specifically Land Measuring, and I thought it was practical like engineering and so I registered.
I enjoyed land measuring, which was my introduction to land surveying. After one year, I got a National Certificate and then continued to a Diploma in Land Management 2003, and a BTech Land Management, specialisation Land Information Systems in 2006, subsequently. After finishing my undergraduate studies, I worked at Geo Business Solutions cc as a junior GIS consultant responsible for cadastral data capturing and updates. In February 2007, I started a new position at the National Planning Commission (Central Bureau of Statistics) as a GIS Data Analyst responsible for spatial data analysis, geodatabase management, Metadata creation and supervision.
I do enjoy school and building my knowledge in land information space especially as the information environment keeps evolving. In 2008, I applied and was awarded an Erasmus Mundus Lot 10 scholarship to further my studies at the Faculty of Geoinformation and Earth Observation Sciences (ITC), University of Twente, in the Netherlands where I graduated with a Master of Science in Governance and Spatial Information Management in March 2010. I worked in other private firms but in December 2010, I got a job at the Directorate of Survey and Mapping in the then Ministry of Land Reform as a Cartographer responsible for cartographic products quality control, georeferencing, mapping, and supervision. This was a game-changer as I was in the government space contributing to the decisions on land information systems. During my work at the directorate of Survey and Mapping, I was involved in the Coastal Sensitivity Mapping and Electoral Mapping projects. Both projects were important for their use of geographical information systems in managing resources and decision-making processes.
However, the pull to be a teacher was strong and in July 2014 I started work as a lecturer of land administration at NUST responsible for courses such as land policies and institutions, land tenure management, Governance and Spatial information Management and later coordination of Work Integrated Learning. I found teaching interesting as I can relate my work experience to my lessons. I also needed to be an expert in my field. I decided to apply for a PhD to help meet that dream, for my students, my colleagues, and most especially for me. I am currently pursuing a Doctorate of Spatial Science with NUST with sponsorship from DAAD under the NELGA program. The scholarship experience is overwhelming, always meeting and interacting with people from different backgrounds and exchanging knowledge. Through this scholarship, I got an opportunity to attend a summer school in Frankfurt, Germany in 2018, after which I was taken up as an assistant tutor from 2019 to date. My research interests are public sector geoinformation management, land tenure management and governance.
At the beginning of my scholarship, I had little knowledge of research, I struggled a lot in conceptualising ideas, however, due to many events organised under the DAAD/NELGA scholarship programme, my understanding of many general land administration concepts has improved.
It has not been easy combining my academic aspirations and my being a mum of four beautiful children. However, I enjoy the challenges that comes with providing for them and meeting my academic needs. I count myself blessed and cherish all the experiences and opportunities.
After the completion of my study, I would like to start a programme to train young Namibians in research methodologies as we lack local capacity in this area. It is believed that decision-makers do not read journal articles but the information I get, I try to pass on in my classes and in the form of opinion pieces in the local newspapers as it can reach the local community in different capacities. I also want to see the improvement, implementation and use of spatial data in decision making at the lower levels of public administration.