Namibia Country Information
"Contrasting, beautiful Namibia," sings the Namibian national anthem. And Namibia is indeed a land of contrasts and beauty, both natural and cultural. The environment ranges from the densely populated, palm-dotted plain of Ovamboland to the arid hills of the central highlands, and from the lush forest savanna of the Kavango and Caprivi to the dunes that roll the length of Namibia's cold desert coast. Among Namibia's diverse population one finds pastoralists, subsistence farmers, and a growing urban middle class.
Namibia boasts eleven national languages, of which most Namibians speak two or three. Although English is Namibia's official language, it is the first language of very few Namibians.
For all its diversity, a spirit of cooperation characterizes Namibia. Today, just twenty years after gaining independence from South Africa, Namibia stands out as country marked with remarkable progress and promise. This atmosphere of cooperation has allowed Namibia to concentrate its resources on basic needs, and education has been a top priority, garnering 30 percent of the government budget annually.
Namibia Summer 2010 volunteer, Meredith Baker, discusses the immense strides Namibia has made after only 20 years of Independence as a nation in the. Click here to read the article in the Harvard Crimson.
WorldTeach volunteers definitely need to be independent and creative thinkers. Without being able to confront challenges and develop solutions on my own, my experience probably would have been a disaster. Volunteers also need to be flexible - you can only ever expect the unexpected.
- WorldTeach Namibia Volunteer, 2010
Unique Challenges for Namibia Volunteers
Namibia is a geographically beautiful yet vast country, second only to Mongolia as the least densely populated country on the planet (and it’s twice the size of California!). Volunteer placements are clustered regionally, but remember, the regions of Namibia are equivalent to the size of an entire state in the U.S. You may be in the same region as another volunteer, but placements are individual and therefore, can be very isolating, particularly during the initial adjustment period. In addition, volunteers may experience frustration in navigating through the language barriers that exist, with both colleagues and students. It’s these very language skills that are the reason that the Namibian government wants WorldTeach volunteers to serve in their schools.
Namibia functions within a very bureaucratic society, and this may frustrate you. You may feel things take longer than they should, or processes could be made more efficient. This may be true, but it’s not how things are accomplished in Namibia. Volunteers are the most successful at their sites and schools if they can learn how to adjust and work within this sometimes cumbersome bureaucratic process. Volunteers are typically unhappy and unsuccessful at their schools when they try to bend Namibia to their Western expectations.
Not all volunteer placements are made equal. Some placements will have the option of two grocery stores within the town, while other volunteers will be required to travel a few hours twice a month to the closest town for supplies. Some placements have running water inside the living accommodations, other volunteers will need to get their water with a bucket from a spigot out back. When something breaks, such as refrigerator or stove top burner, it may take several days to have it fixed. These are just a few of the variations that can take place among volunteer site placements. They may irritate you if you spend too much time comparing what you do and don’t have with another volunteer.
Volunteers often regroup with others in their region over the weekends, allowing for informal debriefings with one another. It can be therapeutic to digress with people that are experiencing the exact same feelings, sometimes even more so than speaking to family and friends at home. With patience, flexibility and always remembering ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’, volunteers often come to love Namibia, complete with the frustrations and rewards, as a second home. There is a reason that Namibia has the highest number of extenders than any other WorldTeach program.
Web Resources for Namibia
- Government of Namibia | Official Site
- US Embassy in Namibia | Official Site
- City of Windhoek | Official Site of the country’s capital
- University of Namibia | Official Site of Namibia's only university
- Namibian Institute for Educational Development | Directorate within the Ministry of Education charged with curriculum development
- The Namibian | National English Newspaper
- BBC News | News and in-depth profile of Namibia
I have to hold on to something every time I look at the Namibian sky to keep from being knocked down by its beauty. Dawn, afternoon, sunset, late night...it never fails to inspire. You begin to realize how big the world is and how small you are. Even after a tough day, a glance at the sky never fails to bring me joy.
Karen McGee, Namibia Year 2011
- US State Department | US State Department country profile
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention | Health Information
- UN Namibia Mission | Official Site
- Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism | Official Site
- UNICEF | Statistics and News for Namibia
- Stanford Libraries' African Collection | Extensive collection of Namibia-related web links
- The Economist | Archive of the magazine's articles on Namibia