A New Approach to Arts Education

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By Frederick Philander OKAHANDJA THIS workshop to train teachers in arts education is taking place at a time when a lot of activities in education are underway, aimed at improving the country’s education sector under the Education and Training Sector Improvement Plan (ETSIP). This was said on Monday morning on behalf of the minister of Education, Nangolo Mbumba, at Okahandja by the under secretary of Education, Alfred Illukena. “ETSIP is a road map that will guide the development and improvement of education in the next 15 years in response to Vision 2030. Arts and culture education is a critical part of these improvements,” Alfred Illukena said. According to him the teaching of arts and culture in schools was started in 1990 as part of pre-vocational subjects in schools. “However, because arts and culture was an elective, it has never been effectively implemented due to a lack of qualified teachers in the various disciplines. This workshop reemphasizes the importance attached to this component of the education system as a whole. The ministry’s hope is that after this workshop participants would have acquired the necessary knowledge, skills, methodology and strategies that will help schools to make a significant difference in the way arts and culture education is perceived,” he said. In an off-the-cuff remark, Illukena acknowledged that the education authorities have faltered in the provision of properly trained arts and culture teachers in the country’s education system. “We need to take appropriate action to remedy and rectify the situation as best as possible. Furthermore, it is very depressing and discouraging to know that funding for arts and culture is not a national priority. It is time that the problems surrounding arts and culture be approached collectively and to face the challenges involved head on,” Illukena remarked. The two-week workshop, presented by Oruuano Artists Union with the financial backing of the Finnish embassy, is attended by 30 selected teachers from all 13 regions of the country at NIED. Ilise Heikkinen, project manager of the Finnish embassy, expressed the hope that arts education in Namibian schools will eventually bring about a whole new generation of Namibian artists. “One of the main focal areas of the Fund for Local Cooperation at the embassy of Finland is the strengthening of Namibian cultural identity. Therefore I see this workshop as a stepping stone for ensuring all Namibian children in future have equal access to arts education, regardless of their physical location, rural or urban,” Heikkinen said. “It was a trying and difficult task for our union to have convinced school principals to release teachers from their responsibilities to attend this all important workshop, which will cover the training of teachers in all art and culture disciplines,” complained Vincent Mwemba, the union’s secretary general in his opening remarks of the first phase of arts education. It is general knowledge that most principals and school managers have over the years been hesitant and reluctant to get involved in serious arts education. “The main purpose of the workshop is to assist teachers in presenting the existing arts curriculum in schools in practical terms, something lacking for a long time. The government has done a lot to draw up these curricula, but it had never been properly implemented due to a lack of teacher interest in the subject,” said Mwemba. Howard Duminy, a full-time piano lecturer at the College of the Arts and one of the facilitators of the workshop, told the teachers that arts education in Namibian schools had never received the proper attention it deserves. “Most artistic inclined teachers are passionate about teaching arts and culture, but due to a lack of funding it could never really materialise. People must realize that arts education is a lifelong process and not a one-off event that can be completed in a short time. Financial investment for the success thereof is very important,” Duminy claimed. Acting director of NIED, Willie January told the workshop participants research has shown that most teachers are selectively interested in arts education in schools. “Research also indicates that at schools where efforts to teach arts and culture has had a positive effect because such acquired creativity had been transferred to other subjects, too. Art and culture learners at such schools have improved,” January said. The main objectives of the workshop, which ends on December 15, are: the training of teachers in all arts disciplines, to upgrade art as a promotional subject in schools, to assist the government implement existing art curricula in schools, to help produce professional art teachers in all regions of the country, to examine all arts education efforts in all grades, to establish a well coordinated national arts education structure, to create employment in the local arts industry and to help make the arts and culture industry a viable one that will contribute to the economy of the country.

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