Namibia: ‘christian Education Will Make a Difference’

namibia_01INTERVIEW

NAMIBIA has in recent weeks debated the root causes of moral decay that results in rape, bestiality, murder, theft and a high divorce rate among other social ills. Tatekulu Apollos Mhani Kaulinge, a Retired Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN), is one of the elders in Namibia who has lived long enough to observe the deterioration of morals within the Namibian society over the past few generations. Apart from being a teacher and a man of the cloth for decades, Tatekulu Kaulinge worked closely with young people for a very long time.

Tatekulu Apollos Mhani Kaulinge is the son of Tatekulu Vilho Mwadikange Kaulinge, one of the pioneer pastors in the ELCIN church, a teacher, as well as one the first black education inspectors and a freedom fighter. In an interview with New Era senior journalist Helvy Shaanika, Tatekulu Kaulinge shared his views on the causes of moral decay.

NE: Briefly tell us about yourself, who is Apollos Kaulinge?

AMK: “I am a teacher by profession and just like my father, I’m also a pastor by profession, a profession that I served for 40 years before I retired in 2003. I studied education and I later went to study theology at Elim and Oshigambo. I continued and obtained a diploma in theology in South Africa. I taught theology in Otjimbingue. I also taught teachers at Ongwediva Teachers Seminary [now known as Hifikepunye Pohamba Unam Campus].

“I became a secretary to the Bishop at Oniipa ELCIN headquarters before I once again returned to teach at the seminary. Thereafter, I was appointed the Dean of Oukwanyama Circuit since the circuits used to be tribal at the time. I was also appointed as the Bishop for the Eastern Diocese, the position I served until 2003 when I turned 70. Now I am just at home reading my Bible, newspapers, listening to the radio, working in my mahangu field and looking after my livestock, and preach here and there.”

NE: Looking back to the years when you were younger and in the early stages of your career, what can you say has changed, in terms of behaviour and morals in our society?

AMK: “The behaviour and morals of our society of then, were very different from that of today. Upbringing was very important and it helped a lot with our behaviour. Upbringing was different and consisted of two components, traditional and Christian. In those days a child was brought up by a team consisting of parents, neighbours, even strangers and the whole community. Christianity brought in a certain quality, but it was all the same, everyone was involved. There used to be one voice, and a child would never hear a different tune. Now there is a difference which I believe was invented by the youth themselves. There was no radio, no television or Internet – there was no Facebook.

“Technology brought in different ways of upbringing. In our days everyone hated alcohol, every parent hated thieving, every parent hated sex before marriage. But nowadays you’ll find parents that are in support of sex before marriage and the consumption of alcohol. Some are even in support of homosexuality. Some elders in terms of age and societal status are saying homosexuality is a human right, while some are saying children should just use condoms. Children of today listen to different voices. We blame the young people, but they are exposed to too many voices and vices. In the past people spoke with one voice. I worked with the youth until 1980, but if you go to the Unam Campus today, young people behave differently.”

NE: Do you think the church is doing enough to address the issue of moral decay among its members, looking at the fact that those that are involved in murder, theft, rape and other crimes belong to different churches?

AMK: “The Church is working to a certain extent. It is trying, to teach and preach to people. There are still church sermons, youth, women and men’s choirs, they do exist in churches, but there is a problem compared to the past. In our days we did not have so many youths, we were able to manage them. We had pastors in schools and teachers were teaching and offering spiritual guidance to the youth and they were also role models. Nowadays young people have become so many and they are scattered all over. Some areas and schools are not accessible to the churches any longer. Most schools do not have Christian education. That is how children end up not understanding that getting drunk, or having sex before marriage and thievery are sins.

“Crimes such as the barbaric murders that are taking place are simply a fruit of what our society has sown, the murders are an indication that our society has lost touch with its humanity and morals. Morals are only tamed and managed by proper parenting, by Christian teaching and upbringing, which before had a big influence in societal values and norms. Today our children are not aware that murder is a sin, they are only scared of the police and if they don’t get caught by the police, then they are happy. But if they were brought up to fear God, they would always know that whether they are caught by the police or not, they have sinned.

“Of course the churches can only reach out to a certain point since we don’t have the capacity to cover all the areas in our country. Young people don’t want to study theology anymore, since there are many other careers to chose from today and theology is quite different. It requires a spiritual, patient person. In these days our people are economically driven and if you are financially driven, becoming a pastor is not for you. Pastors’ salaries are very little and young people do not want to offer tithes to the church. It is a serious challenge.”

NE: There is the issue of religious education, which is no longer offered in public schools do you think this has an effect on the society’s morals?

AMK: “Yes it does, but it should be clear that religious education is not Christian education. Christianity is based on the Holy Trinity, but there are also churches that do not believe in the Holy Trinity, while religious education includes all the religions. Therefore religious education does not provide a basis for young people to concentrate on one religion. In the end, they are left with so many religions to choose from and do not know if they should follow Christianity or Islam or Buddhism. That is why when parents are demanding that religious education be returned I don’t know if they really know what religious education is all about. If religious education is to be returned to schools, then which religion are we talking about? The minister is saying religious study should not be reintroduced in public schools, which religion is he talking about?

“Of course, all religions have core values, most of them are against lies, alcohol abuse, thieving but when it comes to sex, some religions like Islam, marry young girls. In my opinion, Christian education will make a difference but if children are just taught about religious philosophy, I doubt if there will be any difference.”

NE: What is your opinion on modern-day parenting and the family structure with regard to religion?

AMK: “Parenting is not only for the pastor and other church leaders, but the major role players in parenting are the parents. But nowadays the level of Christianity among younger parents is raw. Young parents are referring their children to their grandmothers for Bible Studies homework, because young parents have little knowledge about Christianity. Nowadays parents don’t see Christian education as a requirement, all they teach their children is English and science. Young parents do not understand the value of spiritual education, which is very important in life.

“Nowadays parents are also never at home, they spend their time at clubs and in bars, while children are alone at home or they are at other kiddies’ recreational facilities or events. There is just no time to teach and instill Christian values and morals. Therefore, most parents today do not have any influence over their own children’s upbringing.”

NE: Are parents giving too much freedom to their children? How can we reconcile proper upbringing with the constitution?

AMK: “Start educating children when they are very young. We need to start educating, little by little. Teach them about morals at a very young age, these are the lessons that they will grow up with. I have seen my grandchildren, some go to government schools while one goes to a private school where she is taught Christianity. The one that goes to a private school knows that if you do this or that, it is a sin, but those that go to government schools don’t understand. It means the Christian seed that was planted in that child will never disappear. Some churches claim that children do not understand, but children do understand, they just need patience. Teach them little by little as they grow – we were also brought up the same way. Teach them how to pray, teach them God’s commandments, explain to them why they should or should not do certain things. Once you have planted such roots in the child’s mind, that child will never forget.”

NE: Do we still have Sunday School in our churches, are parents receptive to Sunday School?

AMK: “Yes, we do have Sunday School, but this is only valued by some parents and some are not showing interest. The challenge with churches are the teachers. They need to have properly trained teachers. If churches cannot train Sunday School teachers and youth group leaders within the church then moral values will never be instilled in young people. The church should not just choose teachers because of their ability to sing, but they should be judged based on their spiritual capacity and behaviour, they should be role models.”

NE: What should parents do to help mitigate moral decay, what role could they play to restore eroding morality?

AMK: “We are just grateful that there are still young people out there who were taught morals, and I am urging parents to continue doing so. Unfortunately with peer pressure, and other negative influences that the children learn outside their family settings, children tend to behave differently. That should however not discourage parents. We should continue to talk and educate, we should continue to pray for our children. When we fail to bring them to order, we should not fail and give up on prayer. We should pray, we shouldn’t give up at all.”

NE: Anything that you would like to share with our readers?

AMK: “Moral decay is blamed on the youth, but we as parents, we have also played our part in this. We are not a team in parenting, and children are receiving conflicting messages. When we were growing up, we knew that there were issues that could be discussed in front of the children and those that should not be discussed in the presence of children, because it was known that certain information could be damaging to a child. But nowadays, there is no limit. Black people fed their children with information based on their age, but no, not today. Nowadays children are fed with so much information and at a very young age. Nowadays parenting is the same as throwing seeds among the weeds, those seeds will not grow.

“One day I was much disappointed by a senior national leader, who went to a high school, and his message to the children was that they should give birth, they should produce babies because we are underpopulated. Tomorrow, this same person will give a message to the children to study to become doctors and engineers – this is conflicting. As parents, we should know that children learn anything that we tell them. Maybe we should learn from the developed countries to know how they have managed to bring up their children. When we started preaching in town, we asked the Finnish to come and help us. We needed to benchmark and learn from other countries that have made progress.

“Our government should come up with Christian education, as an optional subject for the parents who want their children to be taught Christian education and the parents that don’t want their children to take Christian education can choose something else – it could be a different religious class, or a music class. This country is predominantly Christian and the majority rules. I am also asking if our government cannot come up with a way to regulate alcohol outlets. Alcohol is too easily available and it is destroying morals and values, it is destroying Namibia.”

NEW ERA

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