By Frederick Philander
Namibia’s education system is not at all working due to the fact that school learners can still not sing, think and do arithmetic 17 years after independence.
This was said by academic Dr Joseph Diescho during a lecture last week. The lecture was part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of TUCSIN in the capital.
Some 200 people attended the lecture, titled “Education is a pre-condition for responsible citizenship and accountable leadership”.
“Despite the fact that we have embarked on a political campaign to ‘massify’ education quantitatively, the outcome has been qualitatively very poor. The reason for this is the fact that Namibians still have not come to terms as a nation with what education is all about,” Diescho said.
In his view, Namibians do not celebrate education, instead they fear it.
“We don’t think that it is good to have educated people. Our commitment is to have patriotic people attending political meetings in high numbers, dressed in and wearing the brightest party colours. Then one is considered to be a good citizen. This is a very sad and tragic state of affairs,” he said.
According to him, political parties in countries such as Britain and Germany are only there to help with electoral processes.
“Those parties don’t take over the lives of people. In Africa, one’s whole identity is wrapped up in one’s political party. Can you see now why we are fighting? We allow political parties to destroy ourselves, something we have inherited from other people’s cultures and civilizations. It is not our culture, but it remains important to us,” he claimed.
In his lecture, Diescho argued that education is not working because Namibians have not embraced education for what it is.
“We wanted to use education as a mechanism and way to celebrate freedom, not for what it is supposed to be. One sure way to destroy education is not to celebrate educated people. Educated people are seen as threats and dangers.
“The question thus is how does one tell a child to get an education? Instead you tell such children to go to a rally because rallies are seemingly more important than education,” he said.
There is a distinct difference between freedom from oppression and freedom to do something.
“We are free from colonialism and oppression, but we are not free to be whom we wanted to be. We are still fossilized in the idioms of yesteryear: ‘Where were you in the struggle?’ Ask a child of 19 years that question, what would such a child know?” he asked. Diescho said that the national leadership had been transformational between 1989 and around 1995.
“One has to acknowledge what the leadership did at the time had been monumental accomplishments, such as the writing of the Constitution. But to me, strategic leadership is leadership that has a strategy of 20, 30 years from now into the future. I have not heard that strategy in Namibia,” he said.
We have not made a survey to establish the strengths and weaknesses of our people strategically.
“We are still celebrating ‘the dance of freedom’ year after year. People are beginning to ask when independence is over? Granted, the potential for development in this country is immense. However, when somebody is doing well in the country that person is punished.
“My suggestion is know what you have, build with what you have and acknowledge your weaknesses and strengths,” he urged. In his opinion, liberation is not only the attainment of political independence.
“It is when we become free to pursue happiness and our goals. We don’t have that in Namibia, I am afraid. When you are an independent thinker in Namibia, you are considered an enemy agent.
“I can understand that because apartheid colonialism has taught us that unless some boss told you to think, you cannot think for yourself,” he asserted.
He is very much concerned about Namibians having asked the United Nations to classify Namibia as a least developed country.
“Namibians like to be pitied and for other people to feel sorry for us. People give us resources and after which we behave wealthier than those who gave us the resources in the first place. We must definitely restrain ourselves from begging from other people all the time,” he warned.
He stated that those with education have an advantage over others because knowledge is power.
“When one has some education, you have less apologies to make about who one is because one is comfortable with oneself. You don’t have to tell me who I am. I will tell you before you ask.
“When you attack me for something I have done wrong, I don’t get diminished. I appreciate it,” he explained his personal philosophy.
He thinks Vision 2030 is a great and noble idea, but a United Nation’s idea.
“Most African countries nowadays have such visions because they were told to have visions to qualify for assistance. It is not a Namibian plan, but it doesn’t make it a bad plan. At the moment, Vision 2030 is too comprehensive to be a programme. Where do you start and who does what? By the time 2030 comes, who will be there?” he asked.
Vision 2030 lacks a central office to administer the programme.
“The Ministry of Veterans Affairs was started because of the frustrations and anger of veterans. Why can such a government organ not be established?” are some of the pertinent questions he asked with regard to Vision 2030.
In a broader sense, education to him is about preparing young people to survive in this ‘cruel, big and ugly world” and equipping people to manage resources better, to look after the young, sick, aged, disabled and to mortgage lives in an intelligent manner.
“Education has taken place when one has learned something from somebody.
Education is about giving us virtues, values, ethics and understanding what life is all about. We cannot live like islands on our own. We exist in relationship with other people,” he said.
Diescho also criticized the Namibian national leadership.
“The leadership in Namibia is where it is because it is where Namibia is. I really hurt for others when youth leagues stoke fire, uninformed fire. There is an organized and dangerous hatred in the country we cannot continue with as a self respecting nation.”
In conclusion, he gave a historic overview of education in South Africa and Namibia in 1953.
“They (white Afrikaners) made laws that brought us to where we are today, where most of us sit with a huge syndrome of black inferiority complex.
Because of the manifestation of that complex, African people still suffer from self-doubt, self-pity and consequently self-hate,” Diescho said.
On a more positive note, he expressed the hope that Namibians will one day wake up to really care for others.
“The attitude needs to be that we can no longer take things the way they are. I have to stand up for the weak and vulnerable, those who cannot speak for themselves.
“A good measure of society is not how it looks after the strong and the powerful, but how it looks after the weak, the suffering, the vulnerable and the voiceless, those in the twilight and the margins of life, the sick, the aged, disabled, women who have been marginalized by habit, custom, tradition and practice and those who are at the dawn of life,” the learned man said.