During Namibia’s liberation struggle, the internal struggle for independence gained tremendous momentum with the rise of internal mass mobilization and waves of demonstrations against the Colonial South African Regime.
Since its annexure of Namibia as Colony, most South African Laws was applicable to Namibia, who then became a ﬁ fth province of South Africa. All draconian apartheid laws also applied to Namibia, from the infamous Odendaal Commission which resulted in Namibians been forcibly removed into reserves and black townships, to the laws of security and subsequently conscription. The majority of Namibians, who stayed in Namibia, were subjected to all these draconian racist apartheid laws.
With the exodus of our prominent revolutionary leaders like Founding Father of the Namibian Nation and the ﬁ rst President of the independent Republic of Namibia, Dr Sam Nujoma, Dawid Merero, Hage Geingob, Moses Garoeb, Theo Ben Gurirab, Hiﬁ kepunye Pohamba, late Hidipo Hamutenya, and many others into exile, the internal leadership had to take over the baton to ﬁ ght the Racist Colonial Regime on home soil.
These were not easy times as the might of the Racist Colonial Regime was deployed amongst the people all over the country. We were subjected to laws that prohibited free movement, mixing with other races, land alienation, forced military conscription, bantu education, which made black people only to study disciplines related to theology, education and administration. The only Tertiary education was limited in scope and capacity and did not prepare Namibians for the different roles at independence.
Schools became battleﬁ elds as military basis were build next to schools and where skirmishes occurred between Plan Combatants and the racist South African Defence Forces then the learners or school children were used as human shield , resulting in many deaths as well as an unfavourable educational situation.
Coupled with this was the Bantu education, where we were also taught limited education and history was based on propaganda, we were never taught Namibian speciﬁ c things, but topics mostly dealt with South Africa and limited to the globe. Furthermore teachers who taught us was from the military, teaching with their guns in the classes, which was another reason why teaching was not effective as it was done under very bad circumstances, but we prevailed under the conditions. Inside the country we really felt the brunt of the apartheid forces and their ruthless policies.
Our leadership was arrested from time to time, people were beaten up severely, some mutilated, and many disappeared until today. Life was not free to the extent that white bread was for whites only; shops were demarcated as such that blacks only buy from a small window, whereas whites went in the shops to do their purchases. Sports were divided along ethnic lines, to the extent that we still see remnants of such sporting teams in present day independent Namibia. Then there was the infamous curfew, where no black person have to move around after six o clock, if found you were subjected to arrests, torture and all other forms of dehumanization.
Even though the situation was like it was during the day, we were highly disciplined and risks with our lives to ensure freedom and independence. With the banning of the liberation movement, Swapo, it was very difﬁ cult to organise openly, because laws were created to arrest our leaders found to transgress such laws. In 1984, Namibia, witnessed the formation of the Namibian National Students Organisation (Nanso), an organisation which became a force during the latter years of the liberation struggle. We had a slogan during that time that every school a Nanso branch, and this was very effective in our campaign, the end result was that over 75% of schools we had Nanso branches.
We mobilized students against military conscription, against privatisation of state properties, the abolishment of the prefect system, the abolishment of military basis from the schools, the implementation of English as medium instruction in schools, the democratization of the education system, through the election of democratically elected schools boards, against Bantu education and the acceleration of our independence. We had many campaigns and were very successful in mobilizing students across the country, so much so that the South African Regime started to shiver from Windhoek until Pretoria, we were brave and fearless and have strategic alliances with the Trade Unions and the Swapo Party Youth League, to the extend there was an a symbiotic relationship between the Swapo party Youth League and Nanso.
Most of the Nanso Leadership and Rank and File were also leaders and members of the Swapo party youth League at that time. Having said that, at the time of the height of our struggle, there were two students bodies namely Nasem and Nanso, but Nanso had the majority of members, we disagreed on a number of issues such as Nanso’s afﬁ liation to the Swapo Party, which for most of us in Nanso was not debatable, as we regarded Swapo as the sole and authentic representative of the struggling masses of Namibia and there was no way we could disassociate ourselves from it.
During our Extra – Ordinary Congress in January 1988 and the preceding Congress resolution of June 1987, we further endorsed the need to campaign for the removal of army basis from the schools in the north such as Ponhoﬁ and to call for the implementation of UN Resolution 435, which paved the way for Namibia’s independence in 1990. We further discussed these issues with our alliances such as the Trade Unions and how they could support and as a result of these, late Comrade Gabriel Shikongo (Who is known as the father of the 88 boycott) went to the North to mobilise students on the resolution. All regions were mobilized about the resolution and in particular to act in solidarity with the students in the North. When Ponhoﬁ started, Oluno and all other schools in the North joined the boycott, followed by Dobra, Shipena, Shiﬁ di, Jan Jonker, all primary Schools in Katutura, Dawid Bezuidenhoudt and Ella Du Plessis and Jacob Marenga Private School.
Kolin Foundation Secondary School, De Duine, Swakopmund Secondary. The Kavango and Zambezi Regions Schools and many others schools joined in making it difﬁ cult for the regime to concentrate, as a result they ramped in the KOEVOET, Military and Police Forces to deal with the striking students. It was massive. Many of us were arrested and expelled from schools. Some were wounded and some of the learners in north who were caught in between the cross ﬁ re died. There is no doubt that the 1988 Students Uprising together with the battle at Cuito Canavale and Calueque accelerated the implementation of UN resolution 435.
Nanso, today, well it is certainly different from yesterday, in the sense that the common enemy has disappeared, but students and learners still face similar challenges, such as the democratization of schools, where school boards take an active role in the management of the schools and its representation of learners is an issue, secondly we need to revisit the SRC Constitutions to conform to our current realities. We need to continue with the slogan of every school is Nanso branch; we need to have campaigns aimed at improving our education system as well as the critical role education plays amongst the Nanso members. We need to advocate for improved results and fair allocation of NSFAF.
We need to advocate for academic freedoms and students rights at our institutions of higher learning. Aggressively campaign for issues like students discounts not only at bookstores but all retails. Student transport is also an important issue that needs the attention of Nanso today, Nanso today should also advocate for the implementation of vocational training and the abolishment of grade ten as entry requirements for the vocational training centres, your skill in a speciﬁ c discipline as well as recognition for prior should enable you to enter vocational training. There is also a need for a skills and academic audit to ascertain what are the skills and educational qualiﬁ cations needed in Namibia, so that we could send our students to study in those speciﬁc ﬁelds and NANSO should spearhead such initiatives. Its role in the party should be clariﬁ ed and only limit to input on educational matters.
It should in particular play an active role in inﬂ uencing the Party’s policies on education and training as well as employment creation and sports. It should also support mobilization efforts by the party amongst its membership. It should play a critical role in encouraging its members to be part and parcel of the Party School. As future leaders they should ﬁ rst learn the traits of leadership before taking up public positions. For them Public positions should not be the ultimate aim, but the education and mobilization of its constituency as well as the implementation of Congress and Conference resolutions. It is my hope that Nanso leadership will be disciplined, respectful to our leaders and elders and not necessarily instigate students for personal gain or to boost echoes.
The Namibian students need leadership that will address both societal and educational issues in an appropriate manner without name-calling and character assassination. As we are celebrating the anniversary of the Swapo Party, I just want to say that over the past twenty seven years, we have achieved a lot, and much more can be done.
We are on the right trajectory now, looking at the initiatives the current Swapo Part Government is undertaking to ensure prosperity. I just want to say that I am happy as a Swapo Party Member and wish the Party Many more years of good leadership and implementation of its good policies and programs. Aluta Continua, Long Live the Swapo party Long Live!!!