Lilemba – a true education philosopher at heart


By Risco Lumamezi

Prof. John Makala Lilemba

PROFESSOR John Makala Lilemba (65), he was born in a now defunct village called Mazanino, in the Sikosinyana District (Sibbinda), about 5 km west of Sibbinda village on 29 November 1957 in Caprivi (now Zambezi).

His father now deceased was Nelson Lilemba Muhanduzi, from Kaliyangile District, in Makusi village, a Totela. But his grandfather had a list of names like Semusa (his real name) Katonga (succeeded a relative, Mandevu (possibly a nick name). “My grandfather is originally from Mutanda Village, in Lusu District of Western Province, Zambia and settled in Ibaba village, near Makusi.” Stressed Lilemba

Lilemba’s biological mother, who is also passed on was Munte Chasunda, a Mufwe, and daughter of Pikinini Chasunda Mabeta from the current Chasunda family of Chibanga Village in Makanga.

“My grandmother (the mother of my mother) was Mutakani Mankomena, a descendant of Nanjara Mwanamalyata (one of the family line members and at some time administered Sibbinda village with her cousin, Chikosi Kuangamiza Mutokwa).

He is the second born, in the family of three (3) from both parents, “but my elder brother passed away in 1997. I am the second born and have a younger sister. I have other siblings from my other two mothers of four sisters and six brothers.”

He is married to his lovely wife Victoria Nanyangwe Lilemba, who hails from Mbala (near Nakonde border of Zambia and Tanzania). “I have six young men and one lady, the eldest being the lady”

He started his education at the age of eight (8), at Sibbinda Primary School from 1966 to 1973 and later went to Kizito College from 1974 to 1978 where he completed his form 5(now grade 12).

At his tender age, Lilemba faced many challenges like going to school on barefooted at a longer distance, and the absence of fatherly love as his parents were in separation.

“Challenges were many like lack of clothes, having no shoes for the greater part of my primary education. Walking longer distances, each day to and from school. Though adequately fed, but it was a challenge for a single parent like my mother to fend for the three of us. My parents had separated when I was about 5 years.”

According to him, “through the Grace of God this has been a success story if I reflect what I went through from my humble beginnings where I and other boys of my time would put on kilts (liziba) in class.”

But his burning career job was to study Theology, but sponsorship was not forthcoming and later decided to climb on the educational bandwagon. “We are about five professors from the Zambezi Region and that is really an achievement.” He revealed

Lilemba was to get work soon after he completed his secondary school ,  as from 1978 – 1980 he was employed as an Administrative Assistant and Training Officer in the then public service called the Administration for Caprivians where he was Training new recruits on administration in the Public Service.

Professor Lilemba recalled his successes saying that “Through the Grace of God I managed to climb the educational ladder.”

Luckily he managed to get a bursary to attend the University of the North (now University of Limpopo, Polokwane) in South Africa in 1983, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts plus his Diploma Education in 1984.

In 1985 – 1986 he was appointed as a secondary school teacher at Ngweze Secondary School (commonly known as junior).

From 1985 – 1989  he worked for the then Caprivi Government Service as an English  and Geography  Teacher , teaching  STD 10 (now Grade 12 ) learners  at Caprivi and Ngweze Secondary Schools.

1990  , he obtained his Degree Master in Education from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom.

1991 –1992 he became the school principal, at Ngweze Secondary School.

1992 –1993 he was an Educational Planner, in Katima Mulilo, Caprivi Region, and 1993 –1994: Regional School Counsellor for the Ministry of Education, he was tasked to counsel learners with serious learning and psychological problems, and gave career guidance to learners.

He joined the public service of Namibia at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 1994 – 1998 as a Foreign Relations Officer, he worked performing duties such as Assembling and collection of data on assigned African and Middle East Desks, Briefing the Minister and Permanent Secretary on the latest developments on assigned Desks, he  prepared submissions to Cabinet,  Served as secretary in meetings with foreign dignitaries  and  he attended the Tenth Advanced Diplomatic Course, April – June 1998, Islamabad in Pakistan: Diplomacy, International Relations, International Economics and Trade and International Law.

He also worked as a Liaison Officer for Inter-parliamentarian Union Conference held in Windhoek, in 1998. Liaison Officer, SACD-EU Conference held in Windhoek, 1997. He attended International Seminar for Young Diplomats, Jerusalem in Israel in 1996; he was exposed to challenges faced by the 21st century diplomats in the form of media, scientific technology and politics.

1998 -2001 he worked as a Programme Manager at Namibia College of Open Learning (NAMCOL) as Head of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences Unit responsible for material development, whilst in 1995 -2000: He was a Part time lecturer at the University of Namibia in Windhoek main campus. Lecturing and setting examinations for post-graduate students aspiring to become teachers at senior secondary level in the courses: Philosophy of Education, History of Education, Comparative Education and Educational Management. Marking assignments and research papers for postgraduate students and he set examination question papers for submission to an external examiner.

In 2001 – 2013, he worked as a full-time Lecturer at the University of Namibia; where he lectured and set examination question papers, Conducted research in his areas of specialization and he wrote and authored modules, He reviewed and revised old modules.

When he turned fifty two (52), in 2009 he graduated at the University of Namibia with his doctorate degree certificate as Doctor of Philosophy in Education.

2011 – 2013: Head of Department: Educational Foundations and Management, University of Namibia.

2014 – 2016 he worked as a Dean of the School of Education at The University of Barotseland in Zambia; he  Headed the School of Education, Organised and chaired meetings of the School , Wrote and taught modules in his relevant field of study.

2014 -2016: Dean of the School of Education and Visiting Research Scholar, at The University of Barotseland in Mongu , western province of Zambia.

2015 – 2017 Part time lecturer: Bethel University, Mongu, Zambia.

2016 -2020 Coordinator: Postgraduate Studies Committee, Visiting Research Scholar and Senior Lecturer, the University of Barotseland, Mongu, Zambia.

In 2018 to 2020 he was appointed as the Deputy Vice Chancellor, of The University of Barotseland.

From 2018 – 2020 he was awarded Associate Professorship of Education at the University of Barotseland  where he worked as HOD , Dean  and Deputy Vice –Chancellor.

1 June 2020 – 31 December 2021, he contributed his consultancy called Buikoneli Consultancy cc with Research on Climate Change: Climate Change Mobilization Environmental Sustainability

Community, Social and Economic Development Projects: Civil Rights and Self-Reliant Projects

Administration, Leadership and Management Training Programme: Planning and Budgeting

Managing Confidential Information, Ethics and Privacy Issues: Communication of Expectations

Public Policy Development, Analysis and Implementation Process: Understanding Theories of Public Policy, Public Policy Intent and Objectives, Macro and Microeconomic Policy Formulation, Policy Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting .Public Speaking: Confidence Building, Group Presentation, Individual Presentations Educational Services: Research Editing, Research Tutorials, Course Tuition at Tertiary Lev

 As a son brought to life by your respectful parents, being an offspring of the indigenous tribes of the Totela and Fwe, but you preferably speak siFwe as your mother tongue, why are you not speaking Totela?

I grew up on my mother’s side and learnt Sifwe as a young person. I have problems in learning other languages. In the Zambezi Region I can only speak Sifwe fluently and English but I understand all languages except the San language.

 What is your favourite sport and hobby?

I like watching boxing and soccer as sports, but also jog to keep myself fit. Reading is my hobby. I am grateful to the Almighty for the gift, that I have read through the Bible three times and I am currently translating the Gospels from Silozi into Sifwe.

What is your favourite dish (meal) and drink?

I grew up under the supervision of my late traditional grandmother (the mother of my mother) and really appreciate her a lot. She taught me to like traditional dishes especially sorghum and millet dishes, relished with meat, chicken or fish, and veggies. My breakfast is always porridge of either sorghum or millet even today.

Apart from that, what challenges are you facing in your life for being an academician or scholar?

Resources to conduct more research and access to publication houses.

 We have seen that you have been working or finding job opportunities outside Namibia, what prompted you to do that?

I was relieved of my duties at the University of Namibia, for a misconduct the student involved refuted I did not do. It was a blessing in disguise as I went to the newly opened University of Barotseland, Zambia, where I rose through their ranks and became the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of that University. For my dedicated services and introducing new programmes especially the Masters programme and my contribution to research, publications, articles in newspaper and journals, I was awarded Associate Professorship in Education.

What was your role in the Namibian liberation struggle before and after independence?

I was one of the activists in Katima Mulilo, in both SWAPO and NANTU during the liberation struggle of Namibia from the mid-eighties to Independence. For the liberation struggle inside the country, it was really tough for us (the likes of late Alex Mushe, George Mayumbelo, Hon. Stanley Simataa), veterans like Norman Lutibezi, Charles Sampati, Michael Likando, Dr. Richard Kamwi, Thaddeus Malumo, Bollen Chataa, Eric Ndala and many others.  We had to operate underground! Many NANTU members today don’t even know that it was Hon. Raphael Mbala, late Lovemore Lupalezwi and I who brought NANTU to Katima Mulilo in 1989. Those were tough years of the colonial rule, that wherever we went we were monitored by the South African colonial rule. It is quite strange; none of the NANTU leadership has invited me for a presentation at their conferences. After Independence, the political panorama changed as those who were selling us to the South African regime overtook us and started character-assassinated us. Well I joined other parties and came back to SWAPO. In the process I have failed to benefit from the veteran war monies despite my sacrifice.

We also have on record that you have participated in the Caprivi Strip case of high treason for testifying in the high court as a researcher  in describing the Caprivi Strip jurisdictional history, in your view as a scholar what is the hidden truth about Caprivi Strip as a country, and your analysis to the idea of secession?

I was invited by the lawyer representing the Caprivi Secessionist Group to give the history of the Caprivi for the lawyers to get another informed view. The invitation was legal and there was nothing wrong with that. It is a fact that the leaders of CANU and SWAPO met on a foreign soil in Zambia, without having interacted at home. There were two territories, though administered by South Africa but the policies were respectively sent to South West Africa and Caprivi Zipfel. The signatories to the merger have not given information about their conditions. It is fact that Caprivi (Zambezi Region) was historically not part of Namibia.  Even at the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, the Region remained part of the Luyana kingdom and under the British rule. But when I was questioned about secession, I told the court that the acceptable mode of secession should be through a referendum not through the barrel of the gun.  In Africa issues of secession border on treason, but in the Western World it is up to the people to decide through a referendum like what Scotland did in September 2014.

You have been very active in Mafwe Annual Lusata Cultural Festival where you have even documented the Lusata mace through writing the book, can you briefly enlighten us why you came up with such a book?

The booklet of Lusata was authored by Hon. Mzee Matjila, but I wrote, “The Odyssey of the Mamili – Mafwe Royal Dynasty: Luyana-Lozi Historical Ties, Liberation Struggle and the Judiciary and Social Systems.” The main purpose of the book is to document the history of the Mafwe for them to know their origin.

You’re one of the most educated persons in the Caprivi, perhaps looking on the journey in education look like you are a threat to the government and other tribesman when it comes to your writings, and thus you seem to be not finding a permanent job in your motherland Namibia, why so?

Academicians should go out there and create their own jobs, but sometimes it becomes hard in a country like Namibia where the population is small. I don’t consider myself to be a threat to any one or even Government because I am a law-abiding citizen. What I write is to enlighten some members of the community to inform them what is happening around them. The government should equally appreciate academicians who inform it truthfully about the situation at grassroots level as some Members of Parliament and Regional Councilors may not pick some burning issues.

Looking at your age now, you turned 65 last month, (November 29) what ambitions and resolutions do you think you can do for your country?

Sixty-five (65) is just a figure. Academicians don’t retire and are ageless as long as they can still work. At Kenyatta University, for example lecturers retire at 75 years because the older the lecturer becomes, the more experienced one has. In the United States, there is system of Professor Emeritus, when one is retired the office remains open for the lecturer to come back and publish new research findings on a regular basis. I can still use my expertise and experience to open an institution of learning if I have funds and sometimes assist in consultancies and even part-time lecturing.

As a philosopher of Education, what is your take to the current Namibian Education System?

The current Namibian education system is failing to deliver. Even the Head of State some few months ago lamented about the poor state of our education system for failing to deliver. There are more failures than passers at Grade 12 level every year. It is more theoretical than vocationally or technically. The system is producing office workers when there are no offices for them. It still depends on non-Namibians after thirty-two years of Independence and ill-equipped teachers and lack of textbooks and many more educational ills.

Your final message you would like to share with the citizens of this country?

The youth should come forward and get involved in the development of the country. The political leaders should equally serve the people who voted them into power, honestly.











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