Root of all failure

An education expert believes Namibia’s early-childhood education is controlled by people with outdated ideas.

15 January 2020 | Education

JEMIMA BEUKES



An early-childhood education expert has labelled the Namibian education system, in particular the early-childhood education curriculum, as “flawed” and “vague”.

At the same time the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) youth league believes the basic education system is in a crisis because of misdirected priorities, lack of proper planning and underfunding of schools by the Swapo government.

This comes at a time when the Hardap Region alone has registered a 21% pass rate, with only 121 learners out of 563 learners passing grade 12 examinations in 2019.

This was revealed in a statement issued by the Hardap regional director for education, Jacky Rukamba, earlier this month.

Rukamba failed to respond to questions sent to her this week. The executive director of the education ministry, Sanet Steenkamp, referred Namibian Sun to the Hardap education directorate but pointed out that it is a concern that key deputy director positions in the region are not filled.

“If there is no budgetary provision made for a key position, directors must apply compensatory mechanisms to cater for the filling of a posts. These are key positions. The deputy director for programmes and quality assurance should provide the required leadership and support to all inspectors and advisory services and by extension all school principals,” she said.

According to Dr Annaly Strauss-Eimann, the cause of this problem lies in the quality of early childhood development, which she believes is controlled by uneducated people with outdated ideas.

“If you have not been in a literacy class then you cannot teach learners literacy. If a child was not taught to read in grade 1 then such a child won’t be able to read and understand the grade 10 or grade12 examination paper.

“The grade one to grade three curriculum is ... completely flawed. There are 13 side words or joining words that learners must know instinctively when they start school in order to read, but some learners in the Hardap Region do not even know the word ‘it’,” she said.

Strauss-Eimann pointed out that most educators do not understand that literacy is not a good command of English but rather a deep understanding of the language.

According to her the quality of classroom education is a direct reflection of the quality teacher training in Namibia.

“Even if you look at the Namcol guides, all that happens in school is that learners are taught to parrot those study guides. You call it teaching to the test.

“The child is prepared to only be test ready, but children do not learn in the same way. One child can memorise quickly but there is another that learns when he sees a thing and others who perform better when they do things practically. But there is no provision for this diversity,” she argues.

Responding to these remarks, Steenkamp said, “Is it the quality of teachers or the quality of teaching in the classroom? That is an important distinction. We need to ensure that the correct understanding exists on the syllabi and resources for teaching and learning.

“Teachers are professionals and should with pride go the extra mile to do self-study and research as well as to call for assistance like best classroom practices and teaching methodologies.

“We are not proactive enough. It requires of teachers not just to be physically present at school but to be very well prepared and focused on time on task in the classroom,” said Steenkamp.

Meanwhile, PDMYL spokesperson Maximalliant Katjimune says the ministry must reconsider taking grade 10 dropouts back into the school system.

“PDMYL regrets the decision of the ministry of education, arts and culture to not allow those who passed grade 10 on a part-time basis in 2019 to continue with formal education in grades 11 and 12.

“These students have been left stranded, and will now have to find refuge at alternative institutions such as Namcol, Tucsin or other part-time institutions.

“What makes this so painful is that firstly, this directive was communicated very late to the affected parties. Secondly, parents of the affected learners will have to fork out huge sums of money to ensure that these students go to school, pay rent and cab fare every day,” he said.

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