Meet the Namibian Fellows: Ayesha Wentworth

DECIPHer is currently hosting six mid-career Namibian professionals, in a scheme arranged by the Phoenix Project. The Fellows are spending three months collaborating with our researchers to study how girls’ education can lead to female empowerment. In the first of our series of blogs, we catch up with Ayesha Wentworth to find out how her placement is going so far.

Tell us about your work in Namibia

I am the Director for Programmes and Quality Assurance at the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture and a Clinical Psychologist by profession.  The Directorate is primarily responsible for the development of policies and programmes, implementation thereof and then monitoring and quality assurance.  Currently, under my directorate we are responsible, not only for curriculum implementations, but also the holistic development of learners through various other programmes like: Integrated School Health and Safety programme (ISHS), Namibia School Feeding Programme (NSFP) Integrated Physical Education and School Sports (IPESS) programme, National Safe School Framework (NSSF), to name a few.  The Directorate is responsible for addressing issues such as teacher professionalism and learner pregnancy through the development of programmatic interventions as well as legislation. 

Why did you want to get involved with the Commonwealth Professional Fellowship scheme?

One of the big areas of challenge for us as a country is the implementation of our policies and seeing the results of the interventions.  The Phoenix programme met with my aspiration to do things differently and create real impact in ensuring education for all.  The Commonwealth Professional Fellowship allows for the sharing and learning about best practices and promotes collaboration not only between the host institutions and the fellows, but also the fellows themselves and learning across countries.

What are your goals while you are here?

I want to learn as much as I possibly can and create networks for strengthening interventions back home. 

Even though our context and that of Wales are so different, they are so similar in many ways.  We face the same challenges at different levels, and there is so much that we can learn from each other and take from each other to strengthen our interventions in these complex contexts.’

How have you found it here so far?

I have learnt so much already and can already envisage the changes I would like to institute not only at policy level in my country, but also at implementation level.  We have been struggling for years with the issue of learner pregnancy and being exposed to the research that is being done in this area of complex interventions has given me a new lens as to how we can possibly tackle the problem and co-produce more productive interventions that will yield better outcomes.

This is just one area, but the curriculum reform process is also very fascinating and speaks to the ultimate aims of our Ministry.  I look forward to going home and engaging my colleagues from line ministries in some of the other topical areas we have been exposed to, that do not necessarily fall in the ambit of my work.

And I have met the most wonderful and interesting people.  Our mentors are super and have been so kind and accommodating that we feel totally at home here.  So, a big thank you to Rhiannon, Honor and Michelle for everything they have done!!

L-R: Honor Young, Cynthy Haihambo, Rosa Persendt, Rachel Freeman, Ndinelago Shilongo; Ayesha Wentworth, Rhiannon Evans and Rakel Kavena Shalyefu

Have there been any experiences so far that stand out to you?

It is colder when the sun shines here!! Cardiff is a beautiful place with such a rich and diverse history, so it has been wonderful to explore the city and see the different sights and sounds.

I think that the most profound realisation is that even though our context and that of Wales are so different, they are so similar in many ways.  We face the same challenges at different levels, and there is so much that we can learn from each other and take from each other to strengthen our interventions in these complex contexts. 

We are also receiving some leadership training and engaging in theory of change which has been very helpful for personal reflection and growth. 

What are you most looking forward to learning about while you are here in Cardiff?

Although I want to learn everything!! I am particularly looking forward to learning more about the School Health Research Network, and how to create/develop that in Namibia, so that we can have a better understanding of the wellbeing of our learners and teachers. I am also very excited to learn about various interventions in the schooling system and how we may be able to adapt them to meet the needs within Namibia.

Ayesha’s Twitter account can be found here: @Ayesha31201116. More information on the Phoenix Project is here: https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/phoenix-project.
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