A Gap Year in Namibia is a fantastic opportunity to live in a country which is rich in history and culture.
Known by the locals as ‘the land God made in anger’, Namibia is a vast and varied country, having gained its independence from South Africa in 1990.
The landscape ranges from the rugged unpopulated expanses of the Skeleton Coast to the sub tropical belt of the North. With a population of just over 2 million it is one of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth and one of the most developed countries in Africa with modern towns and excellent roads. It is also one of the few countries where game roams relatively freely and wild animals by the roadside are a common sight.
Project Trust Volunteers are based in the north-west of Namibia, living in a small school village community consisting of the school, hostel, farm shop and farm houses. The rural setting allows Volunteers to become immersed in the life of the school and develop strong relationships with the teachers, farm workers and other members of the community.
The capital, Windhoek, is a developed city. – showing influences in growth and development from Nama, Herero, German, Afrikaans and British cultures. The Lonely Planet guide describes Windhoek as a ‘slice of green in the desert.’ Western influences are prominent in this city with its modern buildings and the large numbers of tourists passing through. Snippets of history can be seen throughout, with German castles and the neo-Gothic Christuskirche church, which is one of Windhoek’s best-recognised landmarks.
The busy city of Windhoek and the rural life of the farming communities in the north both provide a platform of experience to learn about the cultures and history of this diverse nation. Namibia’s coastline adds another element to the already varied country, with towering sand dunes and eerie mists lying over the coastal communities.
Namibian culture is diverse and there are many ethnic groups, from the historically persecuted San Bushmen, to the Hereros and Ovambos, each with their own separate traditions and languages. The majority of the white population is of German or Afrikaans descent, many of whom are farmers and who still own the bulk of the agricultural land. There are therefore fantastic opportunities to learn about many cultures and become immersed in different ways of life.
Namibia has 10 years of compulsory free education between the ages of 6 and 16.
At the school where our Volunteers are placed, the pupils board in a hostel on the school campus. Volunteers can therefore make a significant contribution to extracurricular activities, as well as helping with learning support and homework. Core subjects such as Maths, Science and English are taught by Namibian teachers, and Volunteers will often be given opportunities to work in a supporting role. Volunteers will be fully responsible for teaching non-core subjects such as Art, Physical Education, IT and sometimes Music.
When on holiday, Volunteers have opportunities to travel to the Zambezi Valley, Victoria Falls, Botswana and across southern Africa. The Namib Desert is one of the oldest deserts in the world and its sand dunes, created by the strong onshore winds, are some of the highest on Earth. Fish River Canyon is amongst the biggest in the world, and Etosha Pan is one of the great game parks of Africa. There are opportunities to go sandboarding in Swakopmund, visit the eerie ghost town of Kolmanskop and to see the 6,000 year old Bushmen paintings at Twyfelfontein.
Namibian Volunteers should be hard-working, mature and responsible.
Interests and skills in Art, Drama, Music and Physical Education are important, as you will not only be responsible for teaching some of these subjects, but will also have many opportunities to run extra-curricular activities using them.
Although English is the national language, for most Namibians it is not their mother tongue. It is therefore important that Volunteers are motivated to contribute to helping younger pupils learn English, as well as supporting remedial work across the primary school with older pupils.
Living and working within the school, paired with working alongside teachers and pupils from many ethnic groups, provides Volunteers with a real insight into the culture and history of Namibia.
There are also opportunities to learn languages, explore the vastly diverse country and learn new skills from teachers, pupils, farm workers, hostel mothers and fathers, and the many people in the school community.
The Namibian country programme provides challenges and opportunities for Volunteers to immerse themselves in a truly unique community.
Peter is not a Returned Volunteer but gained his experience from working with young people for the past 25 years in a wide range of settings, qualifying in Youth and Community Work in 2002. Peter’s overseas experience came as a result of two expeditions with another Gap Year Charity to Namibia in 1998 and Belize in 1999. Having the opportunity himself has given him the experience and desire to enable other young people to volunteer overseas.