KEETMANSHOOP - Political and traditional leaders from the Nama community have slammed the fact that their vernacular language is not offered on a high level in Namibian schools.
Leaders spoke out against the perceived neglect of their language during celebrations of the second Nama cultural festival (2019), held in Keetmanshoop over the weekend.
In her remarks Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, Minister of Basic Education, Arts and Culture, identified language as one of the most important cultural aspects in any given community.
She further raised concern that the Nama language does not receive the attention it deserves from the Nama community. “We don’t encourage our children and grandchildren to speak, read and write the language,” the minister said. Hanse-Himarwa in addition felt that the Nama community does not encourage their children to learn their language in schools by virtue of choosing it as a subject or medium of instruction.
“It is paramount to hand down such an important birthright and inheritance to a well-informed and prepared generation,” she said. Hanse-Himarwa emphasised the importance of culture (of which language forms part) for children and the nation at large since it “ensures a history, a past, present and certainly a future”.
Delivering his keynote address, Petrus Simon Moses Kooper, chairperson of the Nama Traditional Leaders Association, said that the Nama language has been spoken for centuries at the very same place where they had gathered over the weekend for the celebrations.
“In fact, it is the second most spoken language in today’s Namibia but we must regrettably admit that our language is not offered at higher level in Namibian school curriculums. This is unfortunately true,” the chairperson said.
Kooper, who is also the head of the Kai-//Khaun sub-tribe, further said: “Other languages of fellow citizens living in northern Namibia are approved for higher level, but the discrimination against our mother tongue results in lower admission to tertiary education for our children.”
He said he regarded the latter as racial discrimination, which he felt should be stopped. “Our language is an integral part of our culture and without it we cannot have dignified lives,” Kooper emphasised.
The chief expressed his utmost gratitude to the University of Cape Town (UCT) for announcing the commencement of Nama language classes in June this year.
When approached for comment, Absalom Absalom, public relations officer at the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture informed New Era that Khoekhoewogab is one of the five languages (Otjiherero, Setswana, Lumanyoi and Qimbukushu are the other four) that are currently not offered at higher level in Namibian schools.
“Consultations are however ongoing to include these languages with the implementation of the advanced level of education in Namibian schools by 2021 as per the new curriculum reform,” he said.
Absalom further explained that the offering of these languages is determined by factors like the need existing, number of capable teachers who can educate on it and the learner population.
The second Nama cultural festival started last Thursday and was concluded with a church service on Sunday. It attracted visitors from as far as South Africa and Botswana. Amongst the deliberations taking place were cultural performances, musical performances and the demonstration of Nama traditions. Most of the younger Nama-speaking visitors were of the opinion that they attended the festival to learn more about their rich culture and furthermore to commemorate their ancestors’ values and traditions.
Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar… Part of the large crowd that attended the second Nama cultural festival in Keetmanshoop last weekend. Photo: Steven Klukowski