Reaction to Mbumba’s Proposal

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The announcement by Education Minister Nangolo Mbumba that government is considering appointing school principals on five-year contracts was met with cautious optimism and outright rejection by teachers and learners yesterday. This week, Mbumba disclosed that principals of government schools would in future only be appointed on a temporary, instead of life-long basis to help improve the educational system. Three de facto organisations and stakeholders involved in national education reacted to Mbumba’s assertion, which appeared in a New Era front-page story yesterday. “In principle the Teachers Union of Namibia has no problem with school principals being appointed only for five years by the ministry. It fits in with our union’s many public declarations in support of the public’s demands for quality education in the country,” said Gert Jansen, president of TUN. The Namibia National Teachers Union Deputy President, Basilius Haingura, warned that such drastic and unilateral action by the Ministry of Education would be in contravention of and in breach of the Public Service Act. “This is definitely an issue that needs to be discussed and negotiated through the existing technical committee established for negotiations between NANTU and the Ministry of Education,” Haingura told New Era telephonically. The Secretary General of the Namibia National Students Organisation (NANSO), Neville Andre, was more critical in his assessment of the minister’s announcement. “The Ministry of Education should stop blaming others for its known inabilities to run national education properly, in this case school principals, who cannot be summarily penalised for such inabilities. The management of schools should collectively be blamed for poor results at schools, not only principals,” said Andre. Jansen demanded that the decision to appoint school principals for only five-year terms should apply to all involved in education. “What is good for the goose should be good for the gander. The principle needs to apply to the minister and everyone else down the line, including the permanent secretary, the deputy permanent secretary, the under secretaries, the director, deputy directors, inspectors as well as advisory teachers at schools,” Jansen recommended. He also warmly welcomed the educational roundtable conference planned by the Ministry of Education in April. “I think that will be the right and appropriate platform to iron out all the problems and issues that have plagued the education system since its inception some 15 years ago,” Jansen asserted. NANSO has a problem with having to constantly bring in new principals into the equation every five years under the planned appointment system of the Ministry of Education. “There will be no academic continuity at such schools and who will be the ones to suffer? The learners. Hence the fact that we all need to sit down and collectively find out what we are not doing right that we ought to do right within the education system,” Andre, who also referred to the fact that NANSO will hold a meeting today with its members at the Katutura Multiple Centre at 14h00, said. According to the NANSO official, issues such as school fees, the lack of teaching facilities at government schools and the poor 2005 Grade 10 results will be discussed at this afternoon’s student meeting. “NANTU foresees big problems for the education system if the Ministry of Education proceeds with its planned five-year appointment of principals. Normally, the first three years of any principal appointment is used to get accustomed to circumstances and hardly enough time for a principal to settle into the school community. Knowing that a principal is only appointed for five years can bring about serious disciplinary effects among staff as well as learners at such schools,” Haingura, who also welcomed the April roundtable education conference, said.