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"Education for All" has been the watchword for the people of Namibia since independence in March 1990, and the country has made remarkable strides in moving towards a goal of universal literacy. This progress has been all the more remarkable as it has been furthered through the medium of English, a foreign language to all but 0.8 percent of the population. International involvement and international aid have done much to make this development possible. It is, however, precisely this development that threatens all that Namibians hoped to gain through independence. African thinkers, writers, and philosophers, such as Julius Nyerere and Ngugi wa Thiongo, have pointed out that traditional African education had none of the formal characteristics associated with a western-style education, but that this was an indication that the education of African children, which was extremely important in their society, was more relevant to the society of which the child was a member than western education is. Both have warned that abandoning the traditional language for the language of the economically or militarily dominant group, and not generating standards in the language of the people's choice, may seem expedient, but will ultimately lead to even greater marginalization, exploitation, and even annihilation of all that has been important in the culture, development, identity, and struggle of the African people. Paulo Freire points out that this process of cultural invasion, which persuades the ones being controlled that they are inferior and that in order to prosper they need to adopt the norms and values of those whose superiority is evident in their commercial and technological dominance, leads to dependency and a destruction of a people's creativity and self-expression. By adopting the British IGCSE curriculum and the use of University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate for the validation of its examinations, secondary and higher education in particular has taken on the British educational structure, logic, and framework. Whereas learning African Namibian history was once essential in the education of the people in their struggle for liberation from South African domination, Namibian history has now been relegated to a small part of an optional subject within the curriculum. By ignoring African culture, languages, ideas, and values, the population, which has paid such a high price for its political liberation, may be forced into a narrow mold of technically skilled competitiveness designed for a western-dominated capitalist market system.

Namibia's struggle for independence has been characterized by an amazing striving for self-fulfillment and freedom from foreign domination—and an equally astounding compromise of its own cultural identity in favor of an uncritical incorporation of donor organization and donor nation expectations, many of whom stand to benefit greatly from an educated labor force dependant on foreign technology. Anthropologists, linguists, and educators have argued that few, if any, countries have ever achieved high levels of economic and cultural development where a large number of citizens were compelled to communicate and study through the medium of a second or third language. In Namibia "international" is defined as referring to the Anglophone world that has its basis in Britain and the United States. The need for transnational communication is also defined in terms of Europe and the United States, never in terms of Asia or the African continent. There is no way of going back on decisions that have already been made and implemented, and perhaps the new road to personal and national freedom does not necessarily involve a total rejection of all that has been. However, if the motto "Education for All" is to be truly relevant to every citizen of Namibia, African philosophy, languages, culture, and values need to be given a central place in the education system.


Brock-Utne, Birgit. "The Language Question in Namibian Schools." International Review of Education 43 No. 2/3 (1997): 241-60.

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. U.S. Department of State. 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 25 February 2000. Available from http://www.state.gov/.

Chisenga, Justin. "Global Information Infrastructure and the Question of African Content." IFLA Council and General Conference, Conference Programme and Proceedings, Bankok, Thailand, August 20-28, 1999. Available from http://www.ifla.org/.

Harber, Clive. "Lessons in Black and White: a Hundred Years of Political Education in Namibia." History of Education 22 No. 4. (1993): 415-24.

Zeichner, Ken, and Lars Dahlström, eds. Democratic Teacher Education Reform in Africa: The Case of Namibia. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999.

—Karin I. Paasche

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Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education ReferenceNamibia - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education