Interview posted on 24 May 2023
Dr. Lukas Homateni Julius
This month we have a special guest in the name of Dr. Lukas Homateni Julius (37) from the University of Namibia, fondly known as Juru in his circles.
KA: Welcome to Namambe Dr. Julius, I am excited to have you on the show.
LHJ: Thank you so much Mr Kashindi, I am equally excited and feel honored.
KA: Let’s get started, Do yo have a nickname by the way?
LHJ: Yes, I do have a nickname, Juru. I got it from my two short friends, Erastus Ekandjo and Erick Iita during our college times. I can’t remember who coined it between the two, but I know they started calling me Juru first. I am generally referred to as Julius. But My maternal family especially elders call me Homateni, whereas my paternal family elders call me Nghole, my namesake’s middle name. I am named after my paternal grandfather.
KA: People all over the world who work at schools and universities like reading books, which is a good thing, so, my first question to you is, what is your favorite book?
LHJ: Well, I am not too sure if I can single out a favorite book, for I have read so many books/novels and they are all favorites in their own ways, depending on the situation I would find myself in. I enjoy books/novels that talk about resilience and determination, books on current affairs and politics, and sometimes books on religion. I am currently reading a book titled ‘Peace in the face of loss, by Jill Kelly.
KA: Such a fascinating title, what is it all about?
LHJ: Well, I got this book as a gift from my sister in-law, Lucia Shitaleni-Shitefanus, in an attempt to help me cope with the loss of my lovely wife, Evelina Tamukondjo Julius, who passed on the 11th of May 2021. In this book, the author, Jill Kelly is just reiterating that, no loss is too small or too big for our God. In the midst of every trial, he is waiting to give us comfort and peace. The author offers a vision of healing and hope for whatever circumstance one is facing. Her own stories of deep loss and unexpected joy are helpful in seeing how God shows up, even when grief seems insurmountable.
KA: That is indeed comforting, it is always very difficult to lose a loved one. This book is likely to help others who find themselves in a similar situation. May her soul rest in eternal peace.
LHJ: Indeed, thank you so much.
KA: Is there something you wish you could have done when you were young?
LHJ: I wish I could have been allowed to be a child like my younger siblings and cousins that I grew up with. I think because I am the firstborn and the older sibling, I was forced to mature fast and serve as a good example for my younger siblings. So, I was always careful not to mess up while other kids were carelessly having good times of their lives. For example, some of my younger siblings and cousins made kids before me when they were kids themselves, I even had to step in to take care of their kids, but our parents did not really go on as if it was a big issue, but if my grandmother or mother caught me entertaining girls I would be summoned to an urgent meeting and get schooled about how such things are bad and would possibly derail me from what I am destined for, etc. I am not complaining though, Lol. I am just reminiscing.
KA: When last did you play soccer?
LHJ: Hahaha, the last time I played soccer was in 2013, when I was teaching at Okangororosa Combined School, a school in Oshikoto Region. I was part of the Omuthiya Circuit Teacher’s team. I am not a talented soccer player, but I remember scoring an acrobatic goal that day, and I still don’t understand how I did it to date. My Friend, Simon Nghilumbwa, laughs his lungs out every time we reminisce about that goal.
KA: Who is your role model?
LHJ: I don’t think I have a role model. Rather, I have a long list of people who have inspired me to keep pushing and believe in myself. For now, I would only single out my late Grandmother Kuku Emilia Abondo GwaShimaliwa, and my late wife Evelina Tamukondjo Julius (may their precious souls continue resting in eternal peace). These are the two phenomenon women, of course in addition to many other inspiring men and women whom I cannot mention all their names here, who have outstandingly inspired me with how they lived their lives and the positive impacts they have made on other people including myself.
KA: Who is Lukas Homateni Julius
LHJ: I am currently a senior lecturer in the Department of Language Development, at the University of Namibia’s Hage Geingob Campus, and Khomasdal Campus. I teach English, academic literacy and research-related modules. I was born in Omaalala village, close to Ondangwa in the northern part of Namibia. I am the third born of five siblings on my father’s side and the firstborn of five siblings on my mother’s side. My father passed on when I was four years, I then went to live with my late aunt, (my father’s sister, Mee Helvi, may her soul rest in eternal peace) in Windhoek. In Windhoek, I started school at Tobias Hainyeko Primary School until I was grade 3. I then moved back to omaalala village, and went to live with my mother and Grandmother. I continued with school at Omaalala Primary School, then moved to Mvula Secondary School, and finally, completed senior secondary school at Iipumbu Secondary School in Oshakati.
After passing matric, I went to further my studies, at the Windhoek College of Education, where I graduated with a BETD, then began teaching at Okangororosa Combined school in Omuthiya circuit, Oshikoto region. After teaching for about four years at this school I got a job as a lecturer at UNAM, Hifikepunye Pohamba Campus in Ongwediva. In the course of these, I furthered my studies with various institutions. For example, I have a Higher Diploma in Education from Northwest University, (RSA), a Bachelor of Education Honours from Rhodes University (RSA), an Advanced Certificate in Online Teaching and Material Development from the University of Mauritius, Masters of Education, and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education both from Rhodes University (RSA).
I am also a father of two beautiful daughters, Tunomukwathi Evelina and Etuhole Toini. They are my everything.
KA: What was the topic of your PhD thesis and how can it be accessed?
LHJ: The topic of my PhD thesis was ‘Conceptualisations and pedagogical practices of academic literacy in Namibian higher education’. It is readily online, one just needs to simply google either by punching in the PhD thesis title or my full names, then it would appear with all my other publications. It can also be accessed on the Rhodes University online Library repository.
KA: In your view, what are some of the causes of poor performance in the English language at many schools in Namibia?
LHJ: I think there is a plethora of interlinked factors that lead to poor performance in English at many schools in Namibia. The chief factor is the fact that, although English is the sole official language in Namibia and the medium of instruction in Namibian public and some private schools from Grade 4 onwards, it is not a native language for many (about 98%) Namibian learners. The majority of learners learn it as either their second language or even their third or fourth language. So, these learners are faced with a double complex challenge, first, to learn English, and then to learn through English until they finish school. It is not a secret that some of these learners leave primary school and pass their way up to secondary school grades with poor English proficiency, and only starting to pick up ‘proper’ English at the secondary school level. By this time, it might be too late for them to acquire and master the English language structures, and all the competencies and skills required to pass their examinations. Other factors may include learning environments not conducive enough to learning English, especially at schools in rural areas, teachers not adequately trained to teach and assess in English, and acceptance by some of the learners themselves that English is not their mother tongue and it is difficult.
My recommendations to remedy poor performance in English are that, if English is going to be the medium of instruction in schools until learners finish school, then greater emphasis needs to be put on teaching in English as well from the Pre and Junior Primary Phase in order to enable learners to develop their cognitive and academic skills, which they need to study other subjects that are in English. It is worth remembering that most of the examinations often rely on the learners’ reading and writing proficiency in English in order to measure their knowledge, which then translates into a pass or fail. It is an exaggeration to assume that by Grade 4, when learners switch to English as a medium of instruction, they have already acquired the academic language proficiency needed to read and write in abstract ways.
To the learners, they should keep on practising reading and writing in English without fear, avail time to study English (the belief that English cannot be studied is a fallacy), learning English requires practice – they should speak, read, and write in English at whatever opportunity they get.
Teacher training institutions should equip teachers with effective pedagogical skills that would enable teachers to take advantage of learners’ biliteracy and use learners’ mother tongue linguistic competencies in helping learners to acquire and learn English. Finally, the teaching of English should not be the responsibility of English teachers only, even those content subject teachers should be contributing to enhancing learners’ English competencies in their lessons.
KA: What makes you happy when you look back on your career today?
LHJ: Well, the fact that I have touched so many lives as a teacher makes me happy about my career. I have taught both at primary school and secondary school levels, as well as at the university level. Some of the people I have taught have gone on to transform their families, houses, villages, communities and Namibia at large. There are some of my former learners and or students who are teachers, nurses, politicians, doctors, lawyers, etc today. I am proud that I am still a teacher and continue to transform lives.
KA: What is that you want to happen at Omaalala village by 2030, and before that please tell us where exactly is Omaalala village and who is the headman?
LHJ: Like I mentioned earlier, Omaalala is a big village between Ongwediva and Ondangwa. It is so big such that it is divided into five sub- villages, Omaalala A up to E. I live in Omaalala E, and the headman is tate Isai Asheelo. By 2030, I want Omaalala to have launched a functional Developmental Trust Fund that would sponsor Omaalala children’s education, promote agricultural activities and food production in the village, offers start-up capital in the form of recoverable grants for the upcoming entrepreneurs and contributes to sports development and general well-being in Omaalala.
KA: What is it that you want to be changed in Namibia?
LHJ: Eish!, there are so many things I want to be changed in Namibia. But since you only asked for one, the first on my list is related to politics and religion. Politics and religion have a significant impact on our everyday lives because they directly influence the kind of lives we live. There are so many political parties in Namibia, in comparison to our small population of less than 3 million people. Nowadays, every politician that gets frustrated with their political party goes on and forms a political party of their own. Similarly, there are so many revival churches that are emerging all over Namibia which are now taking advantage of people who are desperate for ‘salvation and deliverance’. Mushrooming of political parties and revival churches in Namibia must change. Many productive Namibians are not working together towards common goals such as creating and transforming developmental institutions, because they are from different political parties and or churches.
KA: When you said in Namibia people start too many political parties and churches, what would be an ideal number of political parties and churches in a country that has a population of less than 3 million people?
LHJ: While I respect Namibia people’s constitutional rights to form and join political parties and the religion of their choice, I feel multiple political parties and churches are not necessarily the panacea to the many social and economic problems that Namibia is facing now. If anything, mushrooming of political parties and revival churches are the inhibiting factors to fighting these problems in unison. Generally, what politics and religion do is to factionalize and divide the citizens. It is worse when you have many of these in a small populated country like Namibia.
You have probably heard of highly capable citizens being sidelined from getting certain jobs or not allowed to serve as part of the board of directors of this and that public entity because they are from a wrong political party, sometimes even just by association. Some of the revival churches on the other hand, are causing social chaos among families and society at large by instigating and creating fear and hatred among the citizens. So, coming back to your question, for democracy purposes and given the 3 million population, 2- 3 political parties are ideal and can make it easy for Namibian politicians to coalesce and merge around broader common interests for the betterment of the country. Let us look for example, at the top three densely populated countries in the world, namely; China with a population of about 1.412 billion people, only has one main political party, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Of course, one would argue that China does not subscribe to democracy, but things are happening there. India with a population of 1.408 billion people has 6 main political parties, and the USA with a population of about 331,9 million people only has two main political parties. Namibia with 2.53million people has 21 political parties, come on!
KA: If you are given N$10 million to help improve something in Namibia, what is that you will do that will positively impact some lives in our country?
LHJ: Well, it might sound like a cliché, but given the disturbing high unemployment rate in Namibia, I would divide the N$10 million into recoverable grants of N$50 thousand, that I would give to 200 unemployed graduates/artisans with feasible small business ideas. The beneficiary should employ at least two other unemployed graduates/artisans, which will translate into the employment creation of about 600 people and possibility of growing and employing more people.
KA: Why do you think people in Namibia like playing too loud music in bars and sometimes at home?
LHJ: Well, loud music has to do with traditions and preferences. There are some people who grow up listening to loud music, and registered that as a normal practice. Also, for some, loud music is arousing and it enables greater socialisation especially if the music has meaning to them or is associated with good memories. Because we live in a wicked world, some people play loud music to mask unpleasant things happening in their homes.
KA: Is there any other thing that you would like to share with our readers?
LHJ: Well, firstly, I would like to end by just encouraging the readers to work hard, for hard work always pays, and to never surrender even when hope is wounded. Secondly, they should strive to have high morale and discipline. Discipline has little to do with how smart or talented you are and a lot to do with how you behave when confronted with different but not-so-normal situations. It is said that discipline is hard to teach even to really intelligent and talented people. Lastly, I just want to encourage fellow men, who might be reading this to love their children, be present fathers, and desist from domestic violence.
Thank you for your time and insight Dr. Julius
LHJ: You are welcome.