30 November 2012

Namibia: Nahambo Shamena: The Petitioner and Staunch Critic of the Bantu Education System (?.)


An interview with Nahambo Shamena by Murray Hudson in February 1980 cites that Shamena was a staunch critic of the inferior Bantu Education system and that at one point she wrote a letter to the United Nations (UN) complaining about the ill-treatment of the Namibian people at the hands of the South African colonial administration.

Her political enlightenment and eventual involvement in the struggle for liberation goes back to the late 1950s when she observed the traumatic incidents Namibians, particularly women, endured as result of the forced removal from the Old Location to the newly found township, Katutura.

Narrating the sufferings women went through during the old location protest, Shamena in an interview with Hudson noted that "the women who were at the Old Location protested about being moved to Katutura. That was terrible because they knew if they were moved further away it would cost them a lot."

She noted, "A lot of women were beaten by the police when they refused to move there."

Unlike many Namibians who could not get opportunities to undergo formal education during the colonial era, Shamena trained as a teacher in 1953 and after completing her training she began teaching at Ongwediva. Being at teacher at that time, she ought to have been the implementer of the Bantu Education System that according to the colonial authorities was "suitable" for the so-called "natives".

Nonetheless, Hudson notes that Shamena "came to abhor the Bantu Education System". She did not only reject Bantu education, but also the South African homeland policy and even went as far as assisting fellow Namibians fighting in the liberation struggle, whilst at the same time organizing mobilization meetings and demonstrations against the South African authorities.

This is best reaffirmed by a citation in Hudson's interview that "as a teacher and Swapo member, Shamena and her husband opposed Bantu education. They protested against the tribal policies imposed on the country by South Africa, gave shelter to Swapo members in hiding, and organized meetings and demonstrations."

Her struggle against colonialism was not confined within Namibia's borders. In 1973, Shamena is noted to have become an internationally known proponent against the South African administration following a letter she wrote to the United Nations Secretary General Dr Kurt Waldheim, describing the situation in Namibia.

In reference to this, Hudson wrote, "She wrote a letter to the United Nations, sending it through underground contacts. The letter was endorsed by the Organization of African Unity and by Swapo, and was published in full."

Shamena was a fearless fighter who never wavered despite all the risks involved in fighting in the liberation struggle. At one point, her husband was arrested whilst they were together organizing a boycott against the Bantustan election that was due to take place in the former Ovamboland in 1973.

However, this did not intimidate her to stop taking part in the liberation struggle activities. She continued to fight for the liberation of her motherland.

Shortly after his husband was released from detention at Oshikango and fled into exile, Shamena also left for Zambia in July 1974. Just four months after she arrived in Zambia, she was appointed Head of the Swapo Women's Council.

She served in that position until December 1975. She later became the Representative of the Swapo Women's Council in Britain until 1980 when she went for further studies.

Last but not least, she is also noted to have been one of the women who attended the first congress of the Swapo Women's Council held in Angola in January 1980.

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