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Dr. Paulinus Haingura (PhD)

Department of Linguistics,
University of the Western Cape

Interview Posted on
02 October 2017

Welcome to Namambe Dr. Haingura and congratulations on your academic achievement, please tell us about yourself

1. Tell us about yourself.

I grew up at different places starting from a place called Shaghaya (where I was born, Mukuvi (at my grandfather’s place), then Nyondo at my uncle’s place), Dancence (at my other uncle’s place), Shitemo, and lastly Kamundema (where my mother currently lives).
All these places are situated within the Gciriku area of the current Kavango East Region.
I attended school first at Nyondo Junior Primary School, and then Nyangana Senior Primary, Linus Shashipapo Secondary School as well as Rundu Senior Secondary School, where I completed my matric plus ECP in 1985.
I also attended school at Mashare Agricultural College in the present-day Mashare Constituency.

Undergraduate education

I completed my undergraduate degree at the same place where I have recently obtained my PhD, viz. at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), in the RSA. I obtained a bachelor’s degree (BA – German and History) in 1990. I went on to study LLB at the same university in 1991, but could not progress due to financial problems. This prompted me to start teaching at Rundu Secondary school in 1992.

Work experience

I started working as an underqualified teacher at Max Makushe Secondary school in 1986 up until 1987. I resigned thereafter, and commenced with university studies in 1988 at UWC. After graduating with bachelor ’s degree at UWC, I again resumed teaching at Rundu Secondary School in Rundu in 1992. I worked there as a teacher teaching History, and was subsequently promoted to the post of Head of Department (HOD) in 1994. I served in that position 1994 up to December 1995. In January 1996 I was promoted to the post of Deputy Principal at Leevi Hakusembe Secondary School, and in the same year (to be precise, in May 1996) I was seconded to NIED to work as the Education Officer (EO) for Rugciriku at NIED in Okahandja. In 1997 I was appointed as EO at NIED, the post in which I still hold up to now, even though it has been slightly elevated some few years ago to Senior Education Officer (SEO).

Post-graduate education

I pursued my postgraduate education at institutions such as Technikon Pretoria (BTech – Education Management), Rhodes University (MEd – General Education Theory and Practice), and of course at UWC (PhD – Linguistics). It is thus noteworthy that all my academic qualifications were obtained at South African institutions.
In short, I would describe myself an ordinary person who has accomplished extra-ordinary things.

2. What is the topic of your dissertation and why did you choose this topic?

My research is titled “A Critical Evaluation of the Development of Rumanyo as a National Language in Namibia”.I chose this topic because of my belief that, as a multilingual country, language and literacy development in Namibia should be done in accordance with its multilingual character.

3. Explain your motivation for pursuing a PhD in languages and how the degree will further your career goals.

In fact, I do not consider myself to have specialised in languages. I specialised in linguistics, which is the study of language and its structure, including the study of grammar syntax and phonetics, even though, most people think that a linguist is someone who speaks countless languages and works as a language teacher. The focus of linguistics is about the structure, use and psychology of language in general.
Furthermore, linguistics is the study of human speech including units, nature, structure, and modification of language. Additionally, linguistics is concerned with the nature of language and communication. It deals both with the study of particular languages, and the search for general properties common to all languages or large groups of languages, which includes the following sub-areas:

  • phonetics (the study of the production, acoustics and hearing of speech sounds)
  • phonology (the patterning of sounds)
  • morphology (the structure of words)
  • syntax (the structure of sentences)
  • semantics (meaning)
  • pragmatics (language in context)

It also includes explorations into the nature of language variation (i.e. dialects), language change over time, how language is processed and stored in the brain, and how it is acquired by young children. As a consequence, even though linguistics is still largely unfamiliar to the educated public, it is a growing and exciting field, with an increasingly important impact on other fields as diverse as psychology, philosophy, education, language teaching, sociology, anthropology, computer science, and so on.

The purpose of my research is to provide a critical evaluation of the language-in-education policy implications of the unequal existence between Rumanyo, a minority language in Namibia, and more materially resourced indigenous languages as well as Afrikaans and English. The research focuses on understanding disparities in language and literacy development in Namibia with particular emphasis on ethno-regional disparities and what precipitates these inequalities.

Using the notion of multilingualism as social practice and linguistic dispensation, and adopting a qualitative approach, I analysed data from relevant documents, namely the Namibian Constitution, Namibian language-in-education policy and national curriculum for basic education, as well as interviews with high school learners, teachers, parents and community leaders.

Among other things, I highlight the following findings:
1. Language development in Namibia occurs through the use of a singular language be it through the use of English or ‘mother tongue’, which is tantamount to multiple monolingualisms;

2. Language and literacy development in Namibia is regionally, intra-regionally and ethnically inequitable, since the language policy favours the major African languages, Afrikaans and English, while the status of marginalised languages has worsened after independence;

3. The implementation of the Namibian language-in-education policy is inefficient at the national and regional levels.

Furthermore, the research accounts for alternative notions of language, multilingualism in education and society in Africa, that is to say, language planning and policy across linguistic and national borders. The research is informed by recent thinking on the notion of bi-/multilingualism and interaction in which speakers’ spaces of interaction and use of linguistic and semiotic resources are not bounded by rigid domain boundaries and/or inflexible hegemonic systems.

The idea is to critique current language planning and policies, west-centric models and policies on education and what constitutes language in multilingual contexts of Africa. Of interest is the exploration of alternative ways of thinking about and describing what constitutes a language, as a way to come up with alternative models of language education that speak to an African child’s extended linguistic repertoire, which is undermined by monolingual biases in the current language planning and policy proclamations in Africa generally, and Namibia in particular.

The conclusion of the research is that Namibia does not promote multilingualism, but multilingualism through monolingualism.

In line with this approach, the study concludes that African languages are being promoted as autonomous systems.

The study also concludes that there is no meaningful consultation among the different speech communities and stakeholders, regarding language and literacy development.

Unlike in the past, I am of the opinion that, as a linguist, I can now approach language and literacy development in Namibia wearing a new pair of lenses.

3.1 Very interesting indeed, could you please elaborate more on what you meant with "Namibia does not promote multilingualism, but multilingualism through monolingualism".

It tries to state that Namibia does not promote multilingualism, but it promotes multilingualism through monolingualism.

That is to say, in Namibia you only use one language at school level. For example, Grades 1-3 Mother tongue Grades 4-12 and beyond English. That in effect means the replacement of mother tongue monolingualism by English monolingualism in a multilingual African country!!!

That is why I proposed in my studies for the use of three languages as media of instruction as from Grade One. For me multilingualism is not about the use of one language as medium of instruction and the others studied as subjects.

That is tantamount to multiple monolingualisms. In Namibia this seems to be a major drawback. For example, Rumanyo must be studied by ‘Rumanyo-speakers’  who are based in the Kavango East Region.

This multiple monolingualism, in terms of one (mono) language prescribed to be studied by one (mono) ethnic community in one (mono) region. this in effect Multiple means that even though we have many languages in Namibia, they are being promoted as autonomous systems within specific regions and by certain ethnic communities.

Even Otjiherero or Khoekoegowab that is being taught in different regions multiple monolingualism still applies. How? The language is being studied only by one ethnic community. Namibia should allow children to study the language that they want to study anywhere in Namibia. However, if they only study the languages that is not enough to qualify for multilingualism as defined by progressive linguists.

The languages must be used as media of instruction (at least three).  Take for example, English, the most important language worldwide, should be taken by many rural learners only after Grade 3. All the knowledge is being produced in English and you want Namibian leaners only to study through English after Grade 3. Absolute madness!!!

Take English, home language and lingua franca as media of instruction as from Grade One. That would be multiple multilingualisms.

Currently, the country’s language policy is against the wishes of the majority of the population. That is why many want English medium as from Grade 1 through up to university.

Namibia is a multilingual country and English just added to that multilingualism, which should be celebrated and used effectively in the country’s educational system.

All these assertions are in my thesis. So, take time and read it.

4. What has been your most challenging experience during your PhD study and how did you address it?

Research at PhD level is generally expensive. This was one of the major hurdles to overcome during my PhD studies. I was a bit lucky that the Namibian Government initially funded my studies. Subsequently, the Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society (CASAS) under the leadership of Professor Prah and others provided the necessary funding which enabled me to complete the project.

5. Would you like to provide an abstract of your dissertation? Yes, please download it here.

6. Where can one find a copy of your dissertation?

It is very easy. Just contact me at the following e-mail addresses: or and you will get one. This offer is only for committed readers.

7. Is there something in Namibia that you will immediately change with regard to languages if you are given the power to do so? What is it and how will you change it?

I cannot say more than what I have already articulated in my research. For example, I made recommendations for language education reforms designed to empower Rumanyo and other marginalised languages, and provided a classroom practice model in which three or more languages can be used concurrently for teaching and learning.

8. Who are the people that played a pivotal role in your life?

First and foremost my late father and mother, and secondly, my colleagues, family members and friends who have completed tertiary studies, particularly at masters as well as doctoral levels

9. What message do you have for our youth?

Our youth must not be satisfied with the minimum but should always endeavour to study up to the highest level possible.

10. In conclusion maybe you something else that you would you like to share with our readers?

First foremost, I need to emphasise that fact that obtaining a PhD is a delight, i.e. graduating with a Doctorate was like a heavy weight that has been lifted from my shoulders.
However, this does not at all mean that I must now rest on my laurels. For the benefit of our readers,who want to know a bit more about me, and perhaps hook up with me in future,my research interests are located at the intersection of language as social practice, Bantu morpho-phonology and philology, linguistic/semiotic landscapes, critical pedagogies, and the simultaneous production/consumption of localisation and globalisation processes.

Taking an eclectic approach, he aims to engage these complex processes and notions to refine and develop theoretical and analytical tools to voice, agency, identities, stylisation of speech, transnationalism and mobility, linguistic and multimodal/multisemiotic cultural flows and hybridisation as social practice across practices, contexts and borders in late modern African society. Specifically, my research interests include the discursive construction of identities in society and education; the semiotics of corporate identity, cultures and linguistic/semiotic landscapes, multimodal critical pedagogies and the educational implications of the morpho-phonology of African languages for transnational/Pan African orthography reform and design.

My planned research activities are:

  1. Critical pedagogy, and multilingual literacy practices in homes and schools

The purpose is to explore factors enabling and disabling intersects and disconnections between home and community literacy practices, and between learner and their teacher-inspired literacy practices and events. The school is investigated as a site of unequal education dissemination, focusing on descriptive and interpretive analysis of learner, teacher, parent and community member accounts on multilingual (literacy) practices.

The implications of cultural and socio-spatial, multimodal, material and mobile literacies are measured against the digital turn in literacy practices in homes and schools. The idea is to contribute to literacy theories and practices, and the emerging paradigms in language and literacy studies.

  1. Bantu linguistics and orthographic designs

Studies in comparative Bantu linguistics have often emphasised ‘discovering differences’ even though they may commence with exploring similarities, that is to say, ‘universals’ in the languages concerned.

The purpose is for linguistic descriptions of Bantu syntax, verbal forms and sound systems that focus on similarities to account for an inventory of dialectal and inter-linguistic variations within related languages, which would enable cross-linguistic and border crossing designs of composite orthographies.

Thank you very much for your time and insight.


PhD Degree, Department of Linguistics,
University of the Western Cape


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