Primary school intake shoots up

Indiscipline, pregnancy, high dropout rates and repetition rates continue to plague the education sector, the education minister says.

07 August 2017 | Education

Despite numerous milestones achieved annually in Namibia's education system these successes are often threatened by significant social and practical hurdles, including a lack of qualified teachers, education materials, finances, weak infrastructure, learner discipline and lack of parental involvement.

This year, 41 607 learners enrolled into pre-primary class groups, education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa said at the annual state of education address last week, signifying a substantive increase compared to the 32 793 learners enrolled in 2015 and 37 298 enrolled last year in this educational phase.

With the introduction of the primary education grant, the minister said learner enrolments have continued to increase by around 3% annually, with this year's intake at 483 685 learners for grades 1 to 7.

Secondary education enrolment figures also saw a 3% increase compared to 2016, however the “survival rate from primary to secondary (Grade 8) stood at 89.5% for 2015 whereas the “survival rate at Grade 12 was 45.7% for the same year.”

Yet in spite of these noteworthy feats, Hanse-Himarwa underlined on Friday that many challenges continue to pose a threat to education successes, including “learner discipline and learner pregnancies”.

High dropout rates and repetition rates continue to plague the sector she said.

Apart from limited funding, which has presented challenges on numerous fronts, including teacher salaries, the reintroduction of new subjects as per the curriculum revisions, teacher training, textbook acquisitions, classroom availability and more, other issues plague education in the country.

“The ministry continues to experience challenges such as a shortage of qualified teachers for pre-primary education, limited learning support materials in various vernaculars, proper classroom space, playgrounds and playground equipment.”

Other challenges include “inadequate classrooms, dilapidated and make-shift hostel accommodation, lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities.”

She added that although N$72 million was allocated for textbooks, and the decentralisation of textbook acquisition was completed, the ministry did not meet its 1:1 learner:textbook ratio “due to limited financial resources.”



Teamwork needed

Hanse-Himarwa emphasised that these challenges cannot be tackled by the ministry alone, but requires the input from learners as well as parents, the community and society as a whole.

In addressing discipline, dropout and pregnancy rates, the minister pleased with “parents, guardians and stakeholders at large to join hands to support schools in instilling good moral values and behaviour in our children.” She warned that “limited parental and community involvement, and limited psycho-social support to learners” remain a crucial problem. In line with this the ministry is currently looking at alternative funding options to help strengthen the provision of quality inclusive education. “Through the review of the Education Act, 2001, a provision is made for greater parental and community involvement to foster learner discipline in schools.”

The ministry has also begun comprehensive training to help stakeholders to implement policy regulations to address teenage pregnancies and enhance the management of pregnancy related issues at school, she said. Without you, the children won't succeed.

Another speaker at Friday's event, First Lady Monica Geingos, agreed that the responsibility for quality education results does not rest solely at the feet of the education ministry.

Geingos emphasised that quality education is a complex puzzle that requires input from multiple stakeholders. She said social issues, including poverty and widespread gender based violence, as well as the increasing lack of parental involvement in schools, play a significant role in the education of Namibia's youth.

“I need you to show me a single successful school that succeeds in the absence of the parents. I don't think that such schools exist. We must find a way to truly incorporate parents into the schooling system.”

Geingos deliberated with the audience whether the introduction a few years ago of the term “free education” has been misunderstood by some parents to mean “I am free of my obligations to the school. I do suspect that parental contribution has declined since we coined the term free education. Parental contribution has to increase, not decline.”

She pointed out that moreover, Namibia's widespread “social realities” such as poverty and gender based violence, a lack of a reading culture and more “impact educational outcomes.” Education can be undermined by issues at home with families, including financial pressures, violence and abuse, lack of support and will manifest themselves in myriad of ways in their performance at school, she warned.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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