When Paulus Kalenga finished his Grade 12 in 2013 and shortly afterwards travelled to Windhoek from Rundu to pursue his studies at the Namibia University of Science and Technology, he thought life in the city would be better, as he had an older brother whom he assumed would take care of him. He was excited about the new journey in his life, as he was also the first among his nine siblings to go to university.
However, he found himself footing to the then Polytechnic and returning to a house that had no food to eat.
Over the few years he has been in Windhoek, he has moved several times in the informal settlement, as he struggled to find an affordable and suitable environment that would allow him to study.
Kalenga was raised by a single and unemployed mother, who is back in Rundu. She survives from weaving baskets and, depending on the income she gets, she occasionally sends her son as little as N$200 to take care of himself.
He is a Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) loan holder but points out that when he gets his refund he ends up sharing it with his relatives. However, with his first refund he built himself a shack on his brother’s plot but later moved when his brother ended his relationship with his wife. He left the shack there and is looking for a plot on which to pitch his shack.
He has lived in Okahandja Park, Kwanangombe and recently moved from One Nation informal settlement. While staying at these places, he has been robbed four times of his cellphones and a laptop.
“Even if it’s your biological brother they will not help. My first year, I walked to Polytechnic. The problem is, even when you get your refund there is more demand from the family. If you get money, everybody wants a portion. If you don’t give, it causes hatred in the family. You give them money but later you end up with nothing and in the end these people will not help you,” said Kalenga.
Kalenga formed this organisation in his second year to help students, who came from unconducive environment or had problems with accommodation, sunrise at school studying.
“And I am one of them. I study at the lecture building from 16:00 to 07:00. You go home and rest, shower and come back to school,” he says.
The organisation also conducts motivational tours in schools around the country, offers tutoring and does charity work.
Kalenga says living in the informal settlement, as a student, where accommodation is cheaper has its own challenges. “Since there is no electricity at home, you stay till late at school studying and when it is late you have to pay N$20 to go back home. Sometimes you get home and there is no food,” he says, adding that getting transport in the morning is difficult and he has missed his 07:30 class many times, as taxis are reluctant to drive to town.
He says sometimes the shack is overcrowded and there is noise and students cannot study in such an environment.
Despite these challenges, Kalenga has a positive outlook on life and believes there is someone in a worse situation than him. “But if you do your part – to study – then it’s no problem.”
Currently, Kalenga is looking for a place to stay, as the owner of the place where he was accommodated at One Nation rented his entire shack out to generate an income.
Kalenga and two other friends were sharing a shack but had to buy their own food and cover own transport cost to school and back.
He says lately he had no transport money and has been overnighting at school studying as well as attending to the different leadership roles he has.
Kalenga wears many hats at NUST, from being the NUST brand ambassador, to being the founder and national president for NUST Excellence Team. Being NUST brand ambassador requires Kalenga to tell the public – including school learners – what NUST is all about and what value the brand of NUST has as a tertiary institution.
He is also the deputy public relations officer for NUST Students Against Crime and chairperson for NUST Choir.
Kalenga says he always finds a balance between his schoolwork and his other roles. “This doesn’t disturb me at all. You will find people graduating and there are no jobs so through this I am preparing myself for the industry and networking with people from different industries, which will help me in securing a job after graduating or starting my own business,” he says.