Education 'crippled'... Let's fix it - Dr Iyambo
28 Jun 2011 - Story by Albertina Nakale
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WINDHOEK â€" Minister of Education Dr Abraham Iyambo yesterday threw down the gauntlet â€" the 'crippled' education sector has to be fixed, or else.
While Iyambo applauded significant investments in the education sector, he at the same time expressed concern about what he termed the 'crippled' state in which the education sector finds itself.
He said the challenges facing the education sector include school failure and dropout rates, budget constraints, inadequate classrooms and teaching facilities among others.
During the opening of the five -day National Conference on Education underway in Windhoek, the minister said over the last decade, the budget of the Ministry of Education had increased steadily from N$1.8 billion in 2000/1 to N$8.3 billion for the year 2011/12.
The conference will cost taxpayers N$5.7 million.
It is expected to come up with solutions on education in the country. However, Iyambo stressed that the development budget of the ministry, which is required for expansion and renovation of schools and libraries, has not exceeded 10 percent of the total budget over the last decade.
Another challenge he identified is inadequate student financial assistance. Since investment in tertiary education has increased significantly since 2008, it has given more learners access to higher education.
This year alone, the ministry was only able to assist 7 454 students financially out of 11 100 applicants of whom, 30 percent are civil servants' children.
Against this background, the Education Minister called for more financial resources to be availed for the dependents of the civil servants.
Such funds, he added, could be derived from the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF), the Social Security Commission (SSC) or some other forms of levies to increase the number of beneficiaries.
Iyambo also vowed to improve vocational education and training to contribute more significantly to the employment market. The vocational curriculum must become more rigorous such that learners from vocational training centres and COSDECS have clear pathways to continue to higher education should learners so choose, he stated.
The minister touched on early childhood development and pre-primary saying the importance of this layer of education cannot be over-emphasised.
"If the foundations are weak, the rest of the structures will not stand for long.
However, the allocation to both early childhood (0-4 years) and pre-primary (5-6 years) is too small," he lamented. Another important factor in education is that the number of schools has increased from 1 513 in 2000 to 1 702 in 2011. The increased number has an impact on expenditure in terms of human and instructional resources.
"We are still faced with overcrowded classrooms and temporary structures," Iyambo said. Currently, there are more than 17 000 permanent structures compared to 12 279 in 2000. In 2000, there were 1 388 prefabricated structures compared to 1 157 last year.
In addition, 2 356 temporary structures were recorded in 2000 compared to last year's reduction of 1 374.
Last year saw 120 hired structures for classrooms compared to 201 in 2000.
"As we are improving the quality of education such as the provision of pre-primary education and learner retention, we will need more classrooms. The provision of education to learners with special needs, street kids, child labour and the implementation of the inclusive education policy would justify expansion of physical facilities," the minister said.
Hostels are another challenge due to geographical setting, the environment, distances, settlement patterns and the safety of learners, Iyambo said.
There is also a need need for libraries and laboratories.
The permeation of ICTs into teaching and learning has not yet reached satisfactory levels, he remarked.
"Not only do we need to deploy more hardware and software, but also we need to focus on empowering and enabling teachers with ICT skills. Although textbooks are not enough, our target is to reach one textbook for one learner by 2013."
The ministry has also identified the need to re-train teachers and to re-deploy them due to the change in curriculum.
Subjects with teacher shortages are Accounting, Mathematics, Languages, Computer Studies and Geography.
The minister attributed the high failure and dropout rates to automatic promotion that he said is a major challenge.
According to him, learners are transferred to higher grades without having achieved basic competencies. Hence, teachers struggle to cope with low achievers and high achievers.
"Available statistics show that we have very high dropout rates across all grades.
The highest dropout rates can be found in grades 5, 8 and 10. This has been a consistent concern since 1994," Iyambo revealed.
In 1994, the pass mark was at 49 per cent - that was 20 points while in 2010, the pass mark moved to 51.2 percent being 23 points. For the past 10 years, the pass requirements have been maintained at 23 points.
Iyambo called for the expansion of higher education so that the education system improves and retains more learners.
He urged conference participants to ponder over these issues and come up with clear solutions to the problems of education.
Iyambo is confident that the conference will bring about actions that can be implemented and that will bring about change and improve the education system for the Namibian child.
The conference, which brought together over 1000 delegates, was officially opened by President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
Dr Sam Nujoma, the Founding Father of the Namibian Nation, also attended the conference, as did Prime Minister, Nahas Angula who delivered a paper on post- independence education.