Youth Month 2022: Fanny Nombulelo Agnes Malikebu

Youth Month 2022: Fanny Nombulelo Agnes Malikebu

June is Youth Month, and this year the NRF is celebrating the youth of the NRF who are working towards achieving the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. We thank all participants for sharing their stories with us and we hope that you are inspired by the young NRF-affiliated researchers who are helping to ensure a sustainable planet for all.

Fanny Nombulelo Agnes Malikebu is a Doctoral candidate with the Faculty of Education and Social Sciences at the Centre for Postgraduate Research Studies at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). She was funded by the NRF for her Master’s in Education at CPUT.

This is her story…

I always say that l come from a family that was “able” in the sense that they were able to provide for us. I can’t remember that we were ever sent home from school because we didn’t have school uniforms or school fees. Neither did l have to go to school on an empty stomach.

My education started in a military setting. l was born and raised for most of my life in Malawi because that’s where my father worked until his retirement. I went to Kamuzu Barracks Full Primary and then to a Catholic girls boarding school, Namulenga Girls Primary Boarding School. I completed my secondary education at another Catholic school, Stella Maris Secondary School, in Blantyre. We are a Christian family and l belong to the Catholic Church, as is reflected in most of the schools I attended.

Afterwards, I attended the University of Malawi, Chancellor College where I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Education to teach at secondary schools.

I come from a family of four children – one girl and three boys. I am the first-born child and only daughter. My mother is a nurse by profession and she is the one who gives me a South African background because this is where her roots are originally from.

My siblings and I are all graduates, just with different specialisations. My second-born brother is in the Agriculture field; the third-born is a Social and Development specialist, whilst the last-born holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics.

Tell us about your academic journey

Things do not turn always turn out the way we want them to. Even though teaching was on my list of career aspirations, I would also have loved to be an engineer or a nurse because these are fields of my immediate mentors (my parents). However, no one would understand the joy l feel standing before my students each and every single day. At the moment, I feel that I am on my best career path.

After I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Education, I joined the Government as a secondary school teacher. Then I got lost along the way because l almost changed my career path twice. From 2008 to 2009 I worked with the Opportunity International Bank of Malawi as a Transformation and Marketing Officer and a Learning and Development Officer respectively. Thereafter, (2012 to 2014) I had another break from my teaching position and joined the United Nations Development Programme where I served in my capacity as a Gender and HIV/AIDs Young Professional Programme Analyst.

In 2019, I received a scholarship from the NRF while pursuing my Master’s at CPUT. NRF-funding for my Master’s assisted me in making my research interests known to my peers, my research team members, academicians and all other relevant stakeholders. This opportunity gave me a platform to voice my research problem and objectives. I managed to participate in a number of workshops offered by the institution and presented my ideas which developed the whole thesis for my Master’s paper.

In summary, I would say I am happy at the moment being back in the profession where I am a specialist in teaching Geography and Consumer Studies in secondary schools in Malawi. With so many opportunities coming in to work with the Western Cape Department of Education, and the obtainment of my PhD that’s on the way, I am likely to settle on a better position and work for life until I reach retirement age.

Did you have to overcome any obstacles to be where you are today, and what did you learn from it?

Life is not easy and predictable. Most of my obstacles had to do with taking responsibility and taking charge of setting goals academically and professionally. I might be one of the most unfortunate professionally, but academically I can see progress. Yes, I would say I am overcoming obstacles and it’s not an easy journey.

As girl children, we are exposed to a lot of harm and several challenges as we strive to climb up the ladder, and I am no exception. However, I would say my future is being defined and people have hope that I am destined for success. I have a story. Those who know me very well would clearly say that I am a survivor and at times they do not believe or understand how I got through certain circumstances. Today, I would say I might not be there yet but I am on the right path to success.

I have learnt that “nothing comes on a silver platter” and that “I have to work to earn”. There are no successes and accomplishments in life without clearly defined goals and targets. If one wants to succeed, she needs to reach and be reachable. Interact with those who have done it better, who have achieved, and those who bear expertise in our areas of interest. Learn from their challenges and success stories and more importantly, how they managed to achieve despite those obstacles.

What is your research focus/area of expertise?

My current research focuses on teachers’ experiences with the implementation of the Professional Development Programmes in the Western Cape. The study engages with the teachers, principals, subject advisors, and district and provincial officials.

My areas of specialisation are Teacher Education and Professional Development, Specific Subject Areas and Specific Levels and Methods.

My expertise is in Instructional Leadership, Initial Teacher Education Programmes, and Continuing Professional Development Programmes on top of my specialist teaching subjects which are, among others, Geography, Tourism, and Consumer Studies.

The United Nations identified 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure “…a better and more sustainable future for all…” by 2030. Which of these goals are you addressing through your research, or in your personal life?

These are some of the SDGs which are relevant to the field of my research and all of them touch my personal life in one way or another.

Goal 4: Quality Education. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

The quality of teachers shows a stronger relationship to pupil achievement than school facilities and curricula. Teachers’ professionalism at the school level is positively related to students’ educational outcomes. In classroom management, teachers with higher professionalism tend to use more professional power, as perceived by students.

Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

This research not only uses research data from the African continent, but it even moves across the global context and involves global expertise. Through document analysis and interaction during workshops and seminars, I will interact with international experts in my areas of interest. If I travel to attend conferences abroad, it will also expose me to the global way of doing things.

What are some of your proudest achievements?

I was shortlisted twice for interviews as a Departmental Head for Murray High School and Ikamvalethu Secondary School in the Western Cape Department of Education. These are clear indications that my recently attained qualifications and professional experiences are being well recognised in the market. Unfortunately, I could not attend to any of them. However, I am optimistic that there are more ones coming my way and if successful, I will not hesitate to pick them up.

I was offered an academic research study with the University of Edinburgh in Scotland to pursue a Master’s degree in Research in Education.

The other high moments of my life include a follow-up award by the DSI-NRF SARChI at CPUT in 2019 to pursue a Master’s degree in Education.  Since then, l have fallen in love with academia and l cannot be separated from my field of specialisation.

l was awarded a Graça Machel-Canon Collins Trust scholarship to pursue postgraduate studies at the University of Malawi Chancellor College.

I managed to go through the rigorous selection to be admitted into the University of Malawi to pursue my first academic degree in Education Humanities and graduated with a credit in the field. This is what opened opportunities for further studies in my fields of specialisation.

What are your career aspirations for the future?

We all want to do better in life, and l am also aiming for something better, both as an NRF-funded researcher and a professional in the field of Education.

I will be on the lookout during the coming years for the opening of the NRF Rating call and will apply for an NRF rating as it is necessary for me as a researcher to know where I stand amongst my fellow researchers.

I am already drafting my business ideas and proposals that are associated with my subjects of Geography and Consumer Studies. I would like to have a venture where I attract tourists and provide them with accommodation and food when they visit my business site or place. These are still just ideas on paper as they will require funding so I am not there yet, unless I happen to find funders to help me launch these ideas.

Being a researcher at the moment in the field of Education, I am looking forward to a lot more collaboration with experienced researchers and more publications in order to contribute to my areas of specialisation and also in my work in Geography and Consumer Studies.

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