Full-time student, part-time research assistant, soon to be a teacher
Lynn Akufuna Nalikena was a part of the team that allowed me to complete my PhD fieldwork in 2014. At the time, she was just starting her degree in Education at the University of Barotseland, here in Mongu. When we began research assistant training, I quickly learned that Akufuna had a knack for translation. Although we had to work around her class schedule, she was my first choice for translating meetings, focus groups, and interviews. In addition to her main role as a translator, she was also insightful; offering helpful observations about the ways the research participants expressed themselves and crucial suggestions about how to proceed with our activities.
Fast-forward to 2017. Akufuna is now in her last semester before being a qualified teacher. I was a bit worried that my former assistants would have scattered, leaving me to re-start with newbies. As it turned out, the timing of my trip to Bulozi was ideal: I caught Akufuna during a semester break. Instead of starting afresh, we picked up where we left off and kept moving forward. This forward progress included the execution of more complicated translation styles and involvement with new tasks.
One new task that she accepted was a review of this blog content, a particularly novel task since she does not spend a lot of time floating about the internet. Facebooking, Whatsapping, and texting on the phone: yes. Internet research for class projects: yes. But perusing a blog on her laptop: no.
During a recent trip that we made to the rural area, Akufuna made one of her poignant observations to which I have come to expect, but delivered in the form of a joke. Her observation was essentially this: although some people strive hard to distinguish themselves from others, they’re not all that different as compared to the people from whom they’re trying to distance themselves.
Or at least, that’s my interpretation and summary of her observation. Instead of hearing it from me, how about you read it directly from her?
Akufuna has been hammering away at her first blog post ever; look for it this coming Friday!