Interview with Dr Sadrag Panduleni Shihomeka who recently defended his PhD!

Roy Borghouts

Sadrag Shihomeka defended his PhD titled: ‘Citizen Engagement: Politics and Digital Media in Namibia’. In this interview, Sadrag reflects on his journey and updates us on his current engagements. 

Rashid: Sadrag, you have recently completed your PhD and received the title that we all strive for; my sincere congratulation! Could you please share with us what the PhD journey was like for you?

To me, the PhD journey was full of fun, but at times it was also a little stressful, as my scholarship did not allow me to stay in Europe for the whole trajectory. This has led to both challenges and opportunities. Being in Namibia most of the time benefited me as I was closer to my source of data, but it also deprived me of the privilege of having daily access to my promoters as well as having face to face discussions and networking with my fellow PhDs at the Department. However, I am thankful that in the world of technologies, e-mails, Facebook (to a certain extent), and Skype, we established communication channels while I was in Namibia. The trust and confidence that my promoters had in me served as a fundamental pillar of success and determination in this journey.

It was a journey of knowing the unknown and uncovering the covered. During this experiences, I had to overcome several challenges such as poor Internet connectivity when I was in the village (Eembaxu), being a fulltime lecturer with a full workload at the University of Namibia as well as being ridiculed that I am a PhD drop out. Also, a lot of friends, colleagues and relatives complained that I am no longer attending to them since I was committed to my PhD studies…As a result, I now have fewer friends, but I think this is very normal when one is doing a PhD. Despite all these odds, I remained positive and my driving force of seeing youth engaged in rural politics in the era of social media to promote inclusive and participatory democracy helped me to achieve this dream. My ambitious spirit also enabled me to complete my PhD in Media and Communication within four years with the support of my promoter prof. dr. Susanne Janssen, and doctoral daily supervisor prof. dr. Payal Arora. They were and are still my academic mentors and role models.

Rashid: Thank you for sharing this, Sadrag. We can all relate to some of the challenges, but not to all, of course, you have overcome so much, it is very impressive. May I ask about that important moment right before you were assigned the “Dr” title? What was it like to bring all these experiences, challenges, opportunities and discoveries to a culmination in the defence? 

The defence went well with its challenging questions from the panel. Though I almost cried in front of the panel when I was connecting all these experiences together. It was an eye-opener for me to reflect on my research and it enabled me to reposition my focus for further research on various digital engagements and political participation of young people in Namibia. 

Rashid: Are you already working in that direction? 

I am a Senior Lecturer for Media and Technologies in Education as well as Research Methodology modules at the University of Namibia, Faculty of Education, Department of Lifelong Learning and Community Education. Besides, I am acting as the founding Coordinator of the UNAM-ICDL & Digital Literacy Unit under the School of Computing at the University of Namibia. Having obtained the doctorate degree, I am currently busy publishing papers and book chapters based on social media and political participation of citizens in the 2019 presidential and national assembly elections in Namibia. Overall, my research interests are on digital rights, e-democracy, political radicalization and citizen engagement vs disengagement. Additionally, I am conducting digital ethnographies on e-mobilization/participation and political literacy ethics of citizens during political campaigns and rallies; as well as the political activism as a result of the emergence of independent presidential candidacy. The final slot for my current research is a special focus on the upcoming regional and local authority elections to be held at the end of this year (2020) in Namibia and I am interested in observing how digital media will be used to engage all citizens regardless of their backgrounds.