13 December 2019 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
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David Shikoyeni received a master’s degree in Town and Regional Planning during the UFS December Graduation Ceremonies. He was inspired to study at the UFS after he experienced the competency of UFS graduates he worked with.

Amid hardship and difficulty, David Shikoyeni received his master’s degree in Town and Regional Planning. It was awarded to him at the December Graduation Ceremony of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) on 11 December 2019. 

Shikoyeni, who completed his undergraduate studies at the Namibia University of Science and Technology, had the opportunity to work with several town planners who graduated from the UFS. He was inspired by their competence, which motivated him to apply for his postgraduate studies at the UFS Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

At the time (2013) when he applied for an Honours Degree in Town and Regional Planning, Shikoyeni was working for the Walvis Bay Municipality in Namibia.

Persisting and the will to overcome

He describes the start of his UFS journey: “After a 26-hour bus ride, I arrived at the UFS for the first contact session of my honours studies. It was expensive, since I did not secure any study loans or bursaries and I had to stay in a hotel for the duration of the block classes.”

He continues: “And studying was boring since I did not study for a while. The pressure of school, work, and family life was too much to handle.”

Shikoyeni, however, believed in himself and knew that he had a goal to achieve. Seeing what he was capable of, Shikoyeni persisted and proceeded to a master’s in Town and Regional Planning. 

The impact of mining on small towns

In addition to his recent qualification, Shikoyeni believes that the UFS has equipped him with research skills. For his master’s dissertation he researched the topic: The impact of mining on the land use and planning of a small town: the case of Karibib, Erongo Region, Namibia.

Shikoyeni explains: “Mining has both positive and negative effects on land use as well as on the development of most of the small towns.”

The study was conducted in Karibib due to the town’s rich mineral resources. The area is dominated by mining activities, including gold, lithium, and marble. Development is largely dependent on the mining staff and the mines’ land use demand. As a result of consistency of the gold price and the newly opened lithium mine, the population in the area is still increasing. 

Shikoyeni found that although there are employment opportunities in Karibib, people are faced with challenges regarding property values, employment opportunities, economic growth, unaffordable housing, an increase in informal housing, and pressure on existing services.

Contributors to Shikoyeni’s study indicate that mining regions are undergoing land-use change processes that are different from what might have been expected in the absence of high-quality mineral deposits and, as such, they should be managed differently. Knowing how to do this requires a general understanding of land-use change processes that occur in these regions. 

“To prevent another ghost town, Karibib must be attractive to investors. It needs industries to generate income, transport services, trade, educational facilities, and health services. 

Shikoyeni states that most of these requirements are provided partially or entirely by local providers. “This is the role that diversification plays. Local authorities should not prescribe but encourage investors to take up such activities. They should promote all attempts to ‘go local’.

“If the government, be it at local or regional level, cannot encourage the growth of a tax-paying population, it has failed in its purpose,” Shikoyeni concludes.

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