Johannes Isaaks: Educator, Church Leader and Freedom Fighter (1941 – 2010)

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By Timoteus Mashuna

 

IN many cases, the role played by most of the world’s hailed heroes and heroines is usually confined to one sphere of their society where they have made meaningful contributions.

They have either played a crucial role in politics, armed combat, diplomacy, sports, business or another field.

 

However, there are a few exceptions where one individual dedicates his or her life to a multiplicity of life-struggle issues for the betterment of his or her society.

 

This includes none other than Johannes Isaaks, who besides being a freedom fighter, also counted among the progressive and influential Namibians who made an immense contribution to community development, education, farming and the provision of church services within his community.

This is perhaps best reaffirmed by his obituary in the biography collection of the National Archives of Namibia which reads, “Isaaks had a distinguished career in serving the Namibian community in various capacities, including teaching language development, local government, community development, church activities and in farming.”

Isaaks was born on the 23rd of January 1941 in Gibeon in the southern part of Namibia. Details on his childhood years and high school education are sketchy in the existing biographical files on his life, however he was trained as a teacher in the 1960s at the Augustineum Teachers’ Training College in Okahandja.

After completing his college education he started teaching school at !Haib in Karasburg district in 1964. However, this only lasted for a short while because in 1965 he became one of the first teachers at the new Augustineum college in Windhoek after it was moved from Okahandja as a result of the subsequent mass student protests that erupted there in the aftermath of the Old Location uprising. During his teaching career, Isaaks earned a reputation as one of the best teachers of his generation.

A commentary by Imanuel Ngatjizeko, a former pupil at Augstineum college reads that Isaaks “was a dedicated and committed teacher. Although he was strict and very disciplined, he was also helpful with guidance and counseling especially towards the young students staying in hostel coming from rural areas to the city of Windhoek.”

Implicit in that assertion is that Isaaks was indeed a great teacher.

Besides being a teacher, he did not keep aloof of political developments inside the country. In 1971 when he went to teach at St Theresa High School in Tses he began to actively participate in politics. As president of the Nama Teachers Union, he led an uprising of a group of teachers from the south in 1976 in protest against the inferior education system for blacks. It was perhaps under the influence of the like- minded political leaders such as Isaaks that during the 1970s St Theresia High School became one of the schools in the southern part of the country known for political resistance activities.

As a political leader who firmly believed in what is right, he opted not to compromise on his principles and left teaching in government schools. Despite having lost his formal employnment for political reasons, he never gave up striving for the provision of better education for his community.

He teamed up with other teachers and community leaders in the area and found a community private school at Gibeon, which he ran for 22 years until his retirement in 2002.

Infuriated by the apartheid administration, he joined his fellow citizens who were also agitating for the fall of the apartheid regime in Namibia.

In 1977, he was one among the group of political activists in the south who confronted the South African army at a banned Swapo rally at Oluno in Ondangwa. Following the skirmishes that erupted between Swapo supporters and the South African security agents, Isaaks was among the Swapo supporters who were badly injured. After Namibia attained its independence, Isaaks served as Gibeon’s first mayor, church elder and farmer. He died in March 2010.

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