Pandu Nghipandulwa (26) is a talented and committed young man who has taken it upon himself to make a difference in society through his Youth Mentorship and Development program.
Nghipandulwa and his team of seven volunteers have mentored and/or tutored over 10,000 learners in seven schools since January, 2018.
The passionate, determined youth worker helps to shape and grow future Namibian leaders by providing guidance and offering encouragement to high school-aged young men through a one-on-one mentoring relationship or by making presentations to larger groups.
Nghipandulwa has a degree from the University of Cape Town, where he studied Politics, International Relations and Philosophy.
After finishing his studies, the young man struggled to find employment and decided to take part in developing his community.
The young mentor meets with the learners twice every month for mentoring while he goes to schools to provide tutoring.
So far, the young man and his band of volunteers have covered a total of 14 schools within the Khomas region which include, Delta Secondary School, Jahn Mor, Ella Du Plesis and Amazing Kids Private School.
At the schools, the young man gives workshops and presentations based on leadership and life skills.
He and his team also help young learners to understand their curriculum.
“I believe that mentoring is an investment in the next generation. For many young learners, it is their only hope,” he said.
The young man started the program at the beginning of this year to address the issue of low pass rates in grade 10 and grade 12.
According to the Ministry of Education Arts and Culture statistics, over the past five years, 45 percent of learners fail to advance further because of insufficient test scores.
“This is a clear indication that there is a need for mentorship and tutoring. There are many young people who need motivation to work hard in school,” said Nghipandulwa who was born and raised in Khomasdal, Windhoek.
He was raised by a single mother after his father passed away in a car accident when he was only 10 years old.
His mother did her very best to take care of him and his four brothers, but not having a dad around affected the young man and he found himself getting into trouble a lot.
“Not having a dad around really affected me negatively. As a result, I was rebellious as a young boy. I didn’t like following rules and felt that the world was against me.
“One of the reasons I started this mentorship program is to be a role model to young learners who don’t have fathers. The whole idea is to provide them with guidance and support, so that they do not make the same mistakes I did as a child. I think it is vital for young boys and girls to have father figures in their lives.” Nghipandulwa said
His ‘rags to riches’ story is no doubt inspiring to the young people he takes under his wing.
“I grew up in the high-density suburbs and life there was not easy. A lot happens in such locations that breaks a person especially a young boy. I saw people stabbed in the streets and I myself got into trouble a couple of times. It is survival of the fittest in such places,” he lamented.
In the beginning of his secondary school days he struggled with his grades, but towards grade 10, he made up his mind that he would fight to get out of the ghetto and started putting more effort in his studies and he excelled.
“It is hard for young people to know the value of discipline and hard work when they do not have role models. I try and tell them about my own life experiences for them to realise that anything is possible in life no matter your circumstances.” he said.
He sees mentoring and tutoring as a way to bring the country forward while securing its future, particularly as he perceives that young people even from disadvantaged backgrounds could get all the way to university and become future leaders.
“I want to help these learners to get better marks and set them well in life. When I left university, I just did not want to lie at home and do nothing. I have always had a passion for making a difference in society even from a young age,” he said.
His dream is for the mentorship program to grow and be available to every learner around the country.
“For me, it's about service. I'm a big believer in leading by example. It's really not about me. It's about making a difference and trying to be part of something bigger than me. I hope every day when I work with the learners, I inspire them by what I do. And it's really not about what I can get out of it, but what I can give back to people. That is my motivation, and that's what I try to do every day," he said.
Nghipandulwa volunteers with Richard Namwandi who also shares that same passion.
“I have a very soft spot for the youth. I know that our generation is struggling and I know one of the reasons is because we do not have mentors. I am not yet where I want to reach, but I feel I have something to say to them,” Namwandi said.
Just like Nghipandulwa, Namwandi has also gone through dark patches in his life, which for a while held him back, but he has since found his way.
“We all have something that has affected us, but the important thing is not dwell on that,” he said.