Engineer at last

Rosa Iiyambo
… student who failed matric eight times finally graduates

For many people, attempting and not succeeding at the same thing more than twice is enough to make them give up.

Not for Rosa Iiyambo (34).

She failed Grade 12 eight times before she finally passed, went on to study and graduated as a civil engineer at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) in April this year.

Iiyambo says her friends and family would even advise her to give up, saying academics were just not for her.

But she refused.

Iiyambo, whose dream has always been to become a civil engineer, encountered an eight-year long deadlock in her life when she was unable to meet the requirements for pre-engineering studies at Nust.


Born at Oshuundje village at Okalongo in the Omusati region, she was the youngest of six siblings born to a single mother who stayed with her parents.

Iiyambo says her childhood consisted of moving from one place to another, looking for better living conditions.

When she was old enough, she was sent to Elao Primary School.

Two years later, her grandparents separated, leading to her mother and grandmother permanently relocating to Angola.

Iiyambo could not join them, since she was in school, so she was handed over to her aunt at Okapumbu village.

The aunt was unemployed and had to find ways to make ends meet.

On these days she had to help her aunt and could not go to school.

It was Iiyambo’s job to give customers the correct change, since she was good at this.

She also often had to help with house chores instead of going to school. Some of these chores included having to fetch water from a water point 7km from home.

Iiyambo says she had to wake up at around four every morning to fetch water and make it back in time to prepare for school.

When her mother heard about this, she was not pleased.

“She decided to move me to another homestead to go stay with her aunt at Ondobe Yefidi village, where I continued with my school career at Oshatotwa Combined School in Grade 4,” she says.

Her stay at Ondobe Yefidi was rather also shortlived.

Iiyambo’s paternal grandmother was not happy with her living conditions here and Iiyambo was relocated to Okaku Kaumbi village, where she continued her schooling at Petrus Nangolo Iilonga Combined School.

“My paternal grandmother, who has died, took education very seriously and she did not allow any of us to be late or miss classes without a valid reason,” she says.

Iiyambo failed Grade 10 in 2007.

Iiyambo ended up doing Grade 11 at Emvula Combined School, which was close to where they stayed. Since there were no Grade 12 teachers at the school, all the Grade 11 pupils of 2010 were sent to David Sheehama High School at Outapi, where Iiyambo attempted Grade 12.


At this point Iiyambo’s resilience was tested as she failed Grade 12 for the first time.

She then relocated to Windhoek to stay with one of her sisters.

“I started working at a day care centre to save money to improve my subjects through Namcol,” she says.


“After repeating matric at Namcol eight times, I finally passed my Grade 12 with 38 points in 2019,” she says.
She could finally enrol at Nust to study engineering.

“I didn’t have money for taxi fare, food and toiletries. I then started to wash and iron people’s clothes in exchange for money, because being a student and having unemployed parents was not easy,” Iiyambo says.

In June 2023, which was her final year, she fell pregnant.

“I was lucky, the pressure was less from school, because I did not have so many final-semester modules.

“I was determined to finish what I had started. I had to push myself to get that degree,” she says.

Namcol higher-level Pre-entry to Tertiary Education (Pete) tutor Joseph Kandjinga says he can confirm that Iiyambo had been at Namcol for some time.

He remembers tutoring her, he says.


“Iiyambo is the perfect illustration of what it means to never give up in life,” Kandjinga says.

“We encounter a lot of challenges in life and it is not because we are not smart, but it may simply be due to the circumstances we find ourselves in,” he says.

Nust senior lecturer Gert Christian Cloete says Iiyambo has indeed studied at and graduated from the university.

“She is a former student of mine . . . I was her supervisor for her final-year design project,” he says.

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