Calvin Kazibe

Interview with Calvin Kazibe

17 August 2020

Let’s meet with Calvin Kazibe, the new member of the Board of Directors and currently doing a trainee ship with the Project Managers for the Village Schools Project.

Question: Calvin, you are a new Board member, but you are not new to the JDF. The Fund supported your studies for a Teachers Diploma which you received in 2012 (see earlier article on this site). But let’s go back a bit further first: where were you born and what was your early school carrier like?

I was born in the former Caprivi, currently Zambezi, at a village called Waya-Waya, about 17 kilometres out of Katima Mulilo. That’s the village in which I was born. Later - I am not sure how old I was, but I guess I was five or six- we moved to Tsumkwe in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy.

In Tsumkwe I started Grade one in 1995. I liked school and it was easy for me. I did my Grade one to ten in Tsumkwe and then had to go to elsewhere to continue school as there was no grade eleven and twelve in Tsumkwe at that time. So, when you passed, you had to go to either Rundu (where you just needed to passed on the benchmark), or Grootfontein (that had higher requirements). So most of the learners just went to Rundu. I didn’t want to go there and wanted to do something different from other people. So, I applied at two schools in Windhoek. I got admission at both schools but couldn’t afford school fees, unfortunately.

During my Grade ten final exams, I had the highest points of the class and everybody in the family got excited. We tried all we could to get me to school for the next grade but after realizing we can’t afford, I gave up. I told my dad that I would stay home and see if I can get any domestic work to raise some funds.

Then, I remember it was on the 16th of January 2004, while my dad and I were sitting at home, I saw this boy came running towards us, calling my name and saying an English lady called Yvonne is looking for me. I went to meet Yvonne, who worked for an organisation called WIMSA and she told me that she saw my results and wanted to help me. She gave an alternative suggestion of Otjikoto secondary school in Tsumeb. She then wrote a letter and attached it to my statement of results and forwarded it to the school. She told me to get to the school the following day, and she gave me 100 Namibian dollars to travel to Tsumeb, which was a lot of money.

Question: So, you found yourself in Tsumeb, almost 4 hours from home, and then what happened?

As I reached the main gate of the school in Tsumeb, I found a class mate of mine with her parents, coming out of the office, and she told me I was not going to get admission, that it was full. I was however not discouraged, I decided to give it a try. I came in the office but couldn’t say anything as there were people talking to the principal already. After he had attended to the others, he turned around to me and asked what I wanted. I then introduced myself and said where I was from, he immediately remembered about the text and sent the hostel superintendent to take me to the hostel. I was given a room to share with boys who were in grade eight. I guess the principal perhaps assumed I was in grade eight because of my small body size.

Coming from Tsumkwe not knowing town life at that time, my behaviour in the first days was determined by the rumours I heard from those that were in town schools already. Rumours of bullying, making one wash fellow learners’ uniform, polish school shoes etc. so I decided to put on a serious face just to scare the bullies away from me, though it never happened. I was very silent and read through my story book I came to Tsumeb with.

Question: But you did have to deal with some bullying and racism, right?

These learners at my new school often looked at me and spoke in their language; I didn’t mind that though. The boy who was suppose sleep at my side as the room was divided in two with a wall in the middle, grabbed his mattress and moved to the others and left me all alone. I didn’t mind that either. When we had to go to the dining hall, I was shy and not comfortable at all. We went to school afterwards, but out of about eight hundred learners at the school, I was the only learner without school uniform. I was given hope by the principal who assures me to feel free and come to class putting on whatever clothes I have till my situation was solved. Every break time, learners often came to me, pulling my shirt, asking if I was a teacher, because I didn’t wear a uniform. It took me from January to March to get a school uniform. After that it was much better.

Calvin on building site in Den/ui

Question: And what did you do after Grade 12?

After the completion of my Grade twelve, I applied to study for a Bachelor degree in Agricultural Management at Polytechnic of Namibia and got admission. In the third year of my studies, I dropped out of the Agriculture degree due to life challenges, and lack of guidance. But I later regretted that and really had the thirst to go back to tertiary education.

Then I came in contact with David [David Bruce, founder and project manager of JDF red.]. David wanted somebody to give him a background story about Tsumkwe combined school by then. So, as David worked together and got to know each other, I asked David to find sponsorship for me to go back to tertiary education. It took a while but he finally got back to me with good news. However, it came with some attachment. The JDF was going to cover all the cost for me if I studied Education.

I was a sergeant in Prison Service at that point in time and didn’t believe that my studies were going to be paid for, so at first I did not give my job up yet, but ask for unpaid leave. However, when the colleagues, and the officer in charge found out that I was planning to go for studies, they all advise me not to.  But I made up my mind, I couldn’t take any advice as I was eager to study.

After I was done with my studies, I taught at various schools in Tsumkwe constituency. In the process I developed a great love for teaching, because I could see the impact I had in the lives of the pupils. Learners liked my teaching, they praised me for the way I taught the subject as compared to other teachers who also taught the same subject.

Question: Let’s move forward a bit. From 2018 till recently you worked for the office of the president, as an advisor to the president on all SAN related matters. What have you learned from that work experience?

It was of course a great opportunity working in the office of the President, a very rare opportunity I should say. I really learned a lot during my stay in office. I’m glad I was part of a team that worked so hard to put things on paper, to come up with what would later be referred as the State of the Nation Address.

However, if you’re are a political appointee, you are more like the groundsman to fulfil the desires of the appointing authority. It is politics, it has given me a clue that honesty is not always appreciated and you’re not always expected to report issues as they are. In my opinion, I felt working there did not give the opportunity to contribute directly to the affairs of my community but rather sit in an office and do administrative duties.

Question: Now your career has taken a new direction again, currently working as a trainee for the JDF after which you hope to find a job “on the ground” working directly with the community, right?

Yes, coming back to the Ju/hoansi Development Fund and coming back to my community.  The Village Schools project is a very important project as it will touch a lot of lives. It all makes me feel like just as I was given an opportunity in life by someone else, so shall the project give an opportunity to the needy. If we can get some of these learners from the Village Schools to one day complete secondary school, go for tertiary, come back and become teachers, nurses, managers, tour guides, etc, that is the picture I have in mind and that excites me about the project. It is not about profit; it’s about making a difference in somebody’s life.

Question: The Village Schools are teaching in mother tongue language. Speaking many languages yourself, what is your opinion on that?

Mother tongue is very important, because its easier for learners understand a certain subject, when relating it to his/her mother tongue before taking it in a different language. They say you need to learn “from the known to the unknown”.

For example, when a teacher produces a picture of a cat, and says it in both languages, it becomes much easier for the learner to understand than one language only. That way the learners get a good foundation for education.

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