1. Welcome Dr. Shikongo, first of all please tell us what is favourite word or phrase in English or your mother tongue?
2. How many languages do you speak?
Oshiwambo, English, and a bit of Afrikaans – not able to speak it but currently learning Arabic.
3. Great! Please tell us about yourself and what you are doing now for a living?
I hail from the Omusati Region, specifically Uukwaluudhi. I was born on the 3 December 1972, my place of birth is Oshikuku, however, my home village is Oshilemba, that is where I grew up, then later we moved over to Omungulugwombashe, where my family of origin is currently living. I am married with a daughter, and because of work, my family and I stay in Windhoek.
In fact, since my student days at UNAM, I have been staying in Windhoek since 1992. I am a Psychology Lecturer at UNAM, since 1995, started off as a tutor in the Psychology Department. I currently teach Introduction to Psychology, Psychological Assessment, Research Psychology and Community Psychology. I love teaching, since I also learn something new every day!
4. Where did you go to school? Starting from your pre-primary till where you got your PhD?
I attended primary school at Oshilemba Combined School until grade six, which was referred to as standard four that time. Then I went to attend my grade seven at Ilyateko Senior Primary and Secondary school, a Catholic run school, until grade eight, which I failed once and then left the school to go to Mwaala Secondary school, where I repeated grade eight, passed it, never to fail again! I attended Mwaala Secondary school until my Grade 10, then moved to Mweshipandeka Senior Secondary School for my Grade 11 and 12, the latter I passed with Matriculation Exemption, we were five students in that year (1991). After Mweshipandeka I applied to study at UNAM, got admitted and was subsequently awarded a government bursary, which saw me through my first degree academic studies. I obtained my BA degree in English and Psychology (1995) at UNAM, then my BA Honours General Psychology (1997) at UNAM, then I went to South Africa for my MA in Counseling Psychology (2003) and then came back to UNAM to teach until late 2005 when I left for my PhD studies in Malaysia, obtained my PhD in Psychology of Religious Change (2011). For my Honours degree I sponsored my own studies as by that time I was working at UNAM as a Psychology tutor, having paid my school fees with some money I got from research assistance work I did with my former HOD of Psychology, Prof. Anita Craig, the marvelous lady who offered me the job while writing end of the academic year examinations! UNAM later put me on Staff Development Fellowship program, which was how UNAM sponsored my MA studies, and then for my PhD I received a Common Wealth Scholarships and Fellowship Program from the Malaysian government, through the Namibian Ministry of Education. Thank God, I hardly experienced financial problems during the entire process of my academic studies.
5. What have been your favourite subjects at school and why?
My favorite subjects were English, History and Geography, but cannot quite explain why, but what I realized later is that I learned a lot from History and later English became a big key to my love for voracious reading! I must say, I was taught Geography by own mother who was my teacher of Geography, Maths, I never liked maths though, and my beloved mother was the school Principal of Oshilemba Combined school until her retirement recently.
6. What does a typical day entail in Dr. Shikongo’s life?
I wake up in the early morning, brush my teeth, make ablution to offer my prayers, wash up or whichever comes first to go to work at UNAM, teach Psychology, attend to students issues and problems, do some community service at the Windhoek Islamic Centre, do my prayers, as required my religion (Islam), go home and rest and relax with my family, watch local TV news, read newspapers and books – all kinds – check internet – reading emails and updating myself on international news and developments.
7. Supposed you have no obligations, what would your perfect day be like?
Have too many obligations, have no such luxuries!
8. What are you busy with at the moment?
Having just completed my PhD last year, I am now focusing on self-development, reading a lot of books still – on various topics – writing on various topics for the media, doing research to write a book on the bio-psychology of pregnant women, specifically interested in the fascinating changes that happens to women when pregnant, particularly interested in the ‘crazy cravings’ and funny emotional changes. I have started collecting stories, hoping to compile 101 stories.
As an academic, I am also expected to publish a lot of academic articles and literature, so I am busy working on getting academic materials to start publishing, including from my PhD thesis. Other than that I am also pursuing business interest and hoping to revive my Psychology Practice soon. I am also working on a translation project of Islamic literature into Oshiwambo language, having just published my first Oshiwambo booklet introducing Islam to Oshiwambo speaking people, titled: Ano OIslam Oshike? My wife helped me to edit and write the booklet as my Oshindonga is not that good. The booklet was published in South Africa and is currently out of stock, working on the revised edition soon, God willing.
9. You have been studying Psychology for sometimes now, how would you explain this field of study in layman’s word and why do we need it in our society?
Yes, I have been studying Psychology for a while now and have been teaching Psychology for the past 17 years. Psychology is basically a study of human nature and personality, focusing on understanding why human beings behave the way they do, with all their individual differences. Psychology is a very fascinating subject because you study yourself and other human beings. It helps a lot in terms of self-understanding and social interactions; especially the field of Personality Psychology helps one to understand others much better. Clinical and Counseling Psychology are very much needed as they help us in terms of dealing with psychological problems, disorders and general problems in living through Psychotherapy. It is a field that is poorly understood but has become very popular since Psychology was introduced in Namibia when UNAM was established about 19 years ago or so. In fact, Psychology has become one of the most popular courses at UNAM, especially for first year students, at times reaching more than 600 students in one academic year! With the history of war and social violence in Namibia, and plus many other psycho-social problems, professional and applied psychology is very much necessary to help people deal with trauma, personal problems, marital/family or couple problems, problems at work, the area of Industrial Psychology, but also recently with emergence of Positive and Community Psychology, the promotion of mental health and prevention of various types of psychological problems. However, in Namibia, there are still very few professionally trained and licensed psychologists due to the history of apartheid and racial discrimination in Namibia. The majority of psychologists in practice are white Namibians. I happen to be among the very first generation of professionally trained and licensed African psychologists in Namibia.
10. Would you say there are different types of Psychologists in any given country? If so what do we have in Namibia?
Namibia has very few Psychologists to start with, most probably less than 100 at the moment. There are many fields and career options in Psychology, however, in Namibia; we mainly have only Clinical/Counseling psychologists, Industrial psychologists and few School/Educational psychologists. We have not yet produced psychologists in other areas of applied psychology. However, there will be Community psychologists, Forensic Psychologists, Neuro-Psychologists, Career Psychologists and many other fields in the near future, since after 1990 Namibia started training its own psychologists, particularly at UNAM, with many psychology students taking up further education in other countries, especially South Africa and Western countries. The field of Psychology will most certainly become more prevalent in Namibia in the next few years.
11. There are so many social problems at the moment in Namibia, would you say this is because we do not have enough psychologists in Namibia?
Social problems have many determinants and causes. Psychological factors are just one of the many causes and contributing factors. A comprehensive view is always necessary; we cannot reduce all problems to psychological problems. However, Psychology can surely play a very significant role to help manage, alleviate and deal with some of the key psycho-social problems. Human problems are always complex, requiring a combination of efforts to resolve them.
12. You have been studying in Malaysia for a number of years? How would you describe the Malaysian people and what are the some of the good things that you have observed/learned while you have been a student there?
This would require a book to relate my experiences in Malaysia! I was there for about four years and few months. It surely was a wonderful time with my family. Malaysia is a very progressive, developed and highly modernized country. It looks like the last 50 years have been the golden years for Malaysia and South East Asia in general, the Asian tigers, as Economists refer to them. There are so many good things I can talk about Malaysia and her people. First, Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-religious and highly diverse society. There are Malays, Orang Asli (Original People of the Land) Chinese, Indians and few Europeans. The major religion or rather official religion is Islam, and then there are also Buddhisms, Hinduism and Christianity. There are also a few Eastern Philosophy followers such as Taoism and Confucianism. However, what they have managed to do was to harmonize these various religious and philosophical orientations into relatively working society, with relative religious tolerance and harmony. All the major religious festivals are equally celebrated in Malaysia, creating a very rich religious flavor and experience. Politically, the rule is that the government is always run by a coalition of political parties, including the opposition’s parties who are equally given substantial political roles and positions helping to create a more stable political atmosphere, necessary for economic and social development. Naturally there is no single human society without human problems; however, what we experienced in Malaysia is a nation very much progressive and highly developed in terms of technology and social welfare. Something I have never seen anywhere else is the democratic rotating royal system in Malaysia, as a federal state, they have several kings for each state who take turns to be in power, although the system is largely ceremonial, it helps to keep the society stable. Malaysians are very friendly, enterprising, enlightened and highly confident people. The have invested a lot in education, health, social development and technological advancement. They have also managed to create a balance between secularism, religion and traditional cultures. They have also developed their own languages to a level where there are Universities teaching in their own languages, something we simply have not been able to do in Africa, with few exceptions! Life is generally affordable in Malaysia, there seems to be a genuine mixed economy practiced unlike in Namibia, where naked capitalism is allowed to run amok, with very little state regulations, especially with regard to land and basic needs prices. In Malaysia they have a Price Control Board, where prices of basic needs are controlled especially during the times of financial crisis. Where is mixed economy in Namibia as required by the Constitution?
13. Life seems to be too expensive here in Windhoek, if you compare it to the city where you have been staying is it more or less the same in terms of the cost of living?
Namibia is criminally expensive, comparing to Kuala Lumpur, life is much affordable there, when we came back to Namibia after four years, we could not adjust easily back home. Prices went up like five times and it was hard to come to terms with that, having experienced another world. Water, electricity and tele-communications services are much affordable in Malaysia. There are prices one just does not understand in Namibia, especially municipality charges! It is much crazy living in Windhoek. In Malaysia the government seems genuinely pro-social government policies, not the same here. There is too much empty rhetoric from our politicians, they seem quite happy to enjoy the benefits of Namibia all by themselves, seemingly not realizing that it is politically myopic and suicidal. Namibia with its tiny population cannot afford to go on like this for long. The economy of Namibia seems to be suffering from too much monopoly and this kills competition and makes it hard for the poor consumer. The process of goods and services are extremely distorted. This makes it easy only for the rich few to afford and the rest must go to the dumpsites to survive!
14. In your view which political system would help Namibia to prosper in the long run?
At some point, genuine political reconciliation will have to come in, a government of experts and really competent people should be ushered in, regardless of political affiliation, tribal or racial background, I am not too sure about a coalition systems but the President will have to make sure people are appointed to position of authority and responsibility based on merit not only political affiliations. This will move the country in a much better direction in terms achieving the much talked about Vision 2030; otherwise political egocentrism will kill that vision. In terms of educational competency, of course, our history of higher education is too short to expect a critical mass of highly educated Namibians at this stage, but with UNAM and other institutions of higher learning producing more graduates this will be possible in the next decades. The democratic system in place will only continue to work if people basic needs are seriously attended to on an equitable manner. People do not eat ballot papers or empty political speeches, how wonderfully they may be delivered. The whites in this country who largely the means of production will also to be much more serious in terms of sharing, otherwise when things reach an explosive stage everybody will be negatively affected, this touches a lot on the issue of land. The Zimbabwean experience must provide lessons for all involved. Time is an enemy of the greedy!
15. From a psychological point of view why do you think there is now a big debate about tribalism in Namibia?
Partly due to media hype, the recent debate was brought to the fore largely due to its inflammatory nature. The trigger to the debate was sure to create this kind of situation, since the issue that drove it to the fore was a build up from another incident that was related to the same individual, namely the utterances of the Hon. Minister KK. However, a mature and serious attention need to be paid to those how may feel aggrieved one way or the other by the situation in Namibia. What is crucial is for the debate not to be hijacked by politicians to serve their own short terms political goals. The Namibian Constitution is very clear on this issue and the history of Namibia so far has demonstrated that all tribes have been freely to participate in the economic and political system. However, it must also be remembered that democracy is a game of mathematics! I personally believe that Namibian people have reached the level of political maturity to deal with the issue of tribalism head on and find amicable solutions.
16. What message would you like to give to the youth that are still looking for careers in the field of psychology?
Go for it, you will not regret it! Psychology is a much wider field of study. One can even become self-employed, either through research, consultancy, private clinical practice or life coaching.
17. What is the most difficult part of being a psychologist?
Social misconceptions and stereotypes, many people still do not have an accurate understanding of the practical role and value of psychologists in society, especially in Namibia. However, this will change with more psychologists becoming more visible and doing work out there in the community. Establishing a private practice, however, is a big challenge with a small population like ours and with little understanding and acceptance of psychology, even from the government. The Namibian government must do more to create career options for psychologists, just it has been happening to social workers, nurses or other professionals, and that means budgeting to employ psychology graduates in various Ministries and agencies. It is strange even our Ministry of Defense does not have Military Psychologists?
18. Do you think all human beings have the same capacity of thinking, Europeans, Asians, Americans, Africans, Australians etc? Please explain.
This is a complex questions, however, essentially all humans are the same, what differentiates them is the environment, level of societal development, cultural belief systems and personal choices. That is, the specific context in which they find themselves. Having said that, it is apparent that generally Europeans are much more scientifically and technologically advanced compared to say, Africans, while the Asians are generally more industrious, innovative and ingenious compared to Africans. Look at the Japanese, Chinese and now South Koreans. However, these differences are not genetic per se. As you know the Africans have generally been on the receiving ends from European colonial brutality, which has come to negatively affect the thinking of African and other non- European people. Objective analysis of human history suggests that all human cultures have contributed something to human civilizations, whether ancient or modern! It is also true that the Europeans have generally attempted to down play the historical achievements of other races or other cultures, in the name of cultural imperialism and racial superiority. The bottom line is that all humans are equal in the eyes of the Creator! I like what the Quran says on this: God only looks at people’s heart, in terms of their level of faith, righteousness and piety, nothing else matters to God. You may have gone to Mars, Venus or Moon, but if you morals and ethics are massively corrupt, God has no use for you!
19. Do the majority of people drink alcohol in Malaysia, if the answer is no, are there other social problems that are caused by other things? And what about car accidents, do they have a high rate like here?
No, Islam being the official religion of Malaysia, this is not the case at all. Islam totally prohibits alcohol in small or large quantity, one does not even see a single advert on TV, Print Media or anywhere of alcohol products, those who drink alcohol could only do so in private. We never saw a single person walking in public under the influence of alcohol for the four years we were there; even cigarette adverts are banned on public TV and media. You only see many negative advertising, that is, the advert meant to discourage cigarette smoking! Drugs are also prohibited by law to a point where if one gets caught with drugs one may even be faced with a death penalty! It is a serious crime there and many other Asian countries, not only in Malaysia.
Naturally any human society will have problems, they have other types of social problems that befall any modern society, it is not a heaven on earth, and besides it is also a multi-cultural society, there are many influences both from within and from globalization. For example, they also have their political problems, economic problems and other social problems. However, the positive influence of religion is very much visible in society. There is modesty and for example, most women dress modestly in public unlike here in Namibia. It is largely an open society, after all, though the rates of social problems are relatively low compared to many countries.
20. Why some people get angry so fast while some don’t seem to get angry or they simply don’t show it?
Personality differences and social contexts dictate these differences. Some people also use the positive influence of religion to control their emotions, just as the opposite could happen.
21. As a psychologist if you are given the authority and money what is the one thing that you will change in this country?
Oh God! This one is hard and easy. Authority and money! Amongst others, I would create a situation whereby more people will have access to social, educational, health and economic benefits, through a more decentralized and equitable economic development agenda. To relief the burden on urban areas, I would take more modern development to the rural areas, this help make more people not to flock to cities in search of the “good life there rather than here”. Clearly, this would be easier said than done, however, I really believe that if we do something on the issue of land and education, a lot will change for the better in this small populated land. I would also built community mental health centers all over Namibia, as a good psychologist!
22. One of my name is Justus a boy’s name is pronounced JUS-tus. It is of Latin origin, and the meaning of Justus is “upright, just“. Biblical: an early disciple of Christ, a man considered as a replacement for Judas Iscariot as one of the 12 apostles.
And one of your name is Armas which is Finnish name given to boys and it means Dear
Looking at all the Europeans names that we have especially in Namibia some of them we don’t know what they mean would you say it would be a bad move to translate all of them and we give adopt our equivalents for instance if Justus means upright or just I can be equally re-named Omuyuuki and Armas if it means Dear you can be called Kuume. Do you think God will be angry with us if we don’t use Latin, Finnish or Greek Names if we so wish?
I mean it is easy to translate all the names that we have now.
My dear! God would be perfectly happy with whatever good name we give ourselves in the languages He naturally gave us. Every nation and people have been given their own mother tongue, why not use that? My Oshiwambo names are Etutala Eliputse, meaning God is Watching and is ever Present with us! That sounds like Emmanuel right there! Historically, all colonised people have gone through serious cultural destruction, in terms of language and local religion, however, now that we are politically and culturally free, we should revise, revert and change the names that we cannot identify with, especially names that have bad meanings or are associated with evil things. However, the reality is that names are essentially the same in meaning, in whatever language that one adopts.
Since I reverted to Islam some years ago, I also added an Arabic name to my identity, Abdul Malik, literally meaning servant of the Most Sovereign – i.e. The God Almighty. Professor Ali Mazrui called this African’s Triple Heritage! I am that and much more.
23. What were the topics of your MA and PhD theses. And if possible would you like to give us an abstract of the PhD one and where can we find the full thesis?
For my MA I had two coursework related work. A clinical case study and mini thesis. My Case study topic was: “Assessment and Psychotherapeutic Case Study: The Case of a substance induced Psychosis of a 30 year old Zulu-speaking male, presenting with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder”
My MA mini-thesis title: The Role of Spirituality in the Psychotherapeutic and Professional Training of Psychologists: Perceptions of Muslim Students”. An article from this thesis was published in an International Journal of Religion and Health: Psychology, Spirituality and Medicine, Spring, 2006, Volume 45, Number 1, pp. 93-112. It is available on the Internet.
My PhD Thesis title: “Conversion to Islam in Malaysia: Antecedents, Consequences and Moderating Variables”. My thesis was recommended for publication, I am busy considering getting publisher soon, God willing.
24. Did you publish any other thing? If so please list.
Yes, I have just published my first booklet as indicated above, small booklet called, Ano OIslam Oshike? A lot of my opinion articles have been published in various newspapers and magazines both in Namibia and outside Namibia. I have also been involved in a magazine called The African as a columnist, feature stories writer and journalist. I have an active facebook page: Armas Shikongo. I also had active blogs where I shared a bit about why I became a Muslim and related information – linked to my website called: namibiadawahnetwork.yolasite.com
25. Finally thank you so much for your time and willingness to share your views on issues that affect us, is there any other thing that you would like to share with us?
I must equally thank you for the chance to share a bit of myself with your e-community. I enjoyed relating a bit of my life and experiences with you. I am ever impressed by your efforts and activities. Keep up the good work. I hope to get assistance from your website to get information for my book project on the “Mysteries of Bio-Psychology of Women: Their Funny Cravings during pregnancies and related Emotional Changes”
Cheers and my Salaams (Ombili ondjo) to all!
Dr. Shikongo pictured with his wife Aina and little Jamila Shikongo
Dr Shikongo pictured with a brother from Colombia
The Masjid (place of worship) is located right in the middle of the varsity