As part of one of our ongoing program rollout in Namibia, we have evaluated many solutions across the spectrum. A striking theme across these solutions is their insistence on using English as the language of communication in regions that register English as a third language.

English is listed as an official language in Namibia along with the following indigenous languages, as stipulated by the Namibian government:

  • Oshiwambo,
  • Nama/Damara,
  • Afrikaans,
  • Kavango, and
  • Otjiherero.

Our data collectors have also confirmed that the operating context indicates that in the large parts of the regions we are focusing on, English is not a spoken language. We are discovering that this is creating information asymmetries between areas that can communicate and comprehend English versus those that can’t understand and speak the language.

The communication gap also resembles a well-observed asymmetry, i.e. is divided on an urban/rural divide, in that communication efforts are much more dynamic and widespread. While in rural areas, there is little to no coverage. In regions such as Gobabis, where nomadic San people reside, our partners are reporting very little information access and distribution activity.

The direct result is that the government-mandated COVID-19 preventive measures such as washing hands, social distancing, and the wearing of masks, cannot be observed as this information and associated protocols have not reached these communities. The Omaheke Foundation was reporting dire conditions among nomadic communities, where even radio accessibility was a challenge.

This is apparent as you traverse into more rural and remote areas, communities are more expectant of food hampers and less on the protocols of Covid-19 avoidance, some underlying socio-economic factors are at play, which is not the subject of this post. From engagement with nomadic communities in the Gobabis region, there were apparent information gaps, and organizations working in these communities have little to no additional capacity from any quarters.

The extent to which information is distributed and shared in the remotest communities of Namibia is unclear, however, from observations of protocols, it’s clear that the message and calls to action are concentrated in urban communities.

Our research report titled "Understanding Namibia's society: The impact of COVID-19" will be published on 7 December 2020. Click on the button below to subscribe and be notified when it is available.

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