Urgent Talks to address Schools Shortage

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK More than 350 new Grade 8 learners were turned down at Delta Secondary School on Thursday, an alleged trend at most government-owned schools due to a dire lack of classroom accommodation. The Rector of the Polytechnic of Namibia, dr Tjama Tjivikua, is of the opinion that the government has not kept track of the population growth of the country and the demand for education guaranteed under the Namibian Constitution. “Since independence Namibian learners have been accommodated in approximately 1 500 schools. That was 16 years ago. With the exception of a few renovations and repairs to classrooms here and there at selected educational institutions, no other schools have been built to accommodate the estimated 600 000 learners currently qualifying to attend school,” Tjivikua said last week. It is understood that the deputy directors of education from all educational regions are to meet tomorrow in the capital under the auspices of the Ministry of Education’s Permanent Secretary’s office to discuss the accommodation crisis. “We have been acting in accordance with ministerial regulations, taking in only 175 Grade 8 learners from a total of 500, who have applied for enrolment at our school,” said principal Jurgen Koch, who vehemently denied any discrimination against any learner. “We have had applications from many schools across the whole spectrum, but we just could not accommodate them all due to a shortage of classroom accommodation. A selection of learners from new applicants had to be made based on academic excellence, physical proximity and social background as criteria. According to ministerial assessments made last year, our school would not have an accommodation problem this year,” he passed the buck to the Ministry of Education. According to him applications started in May 2005 already. “It’s clear and simple, the Ministry of Education has not built enough schools to provide for the needs of the education population. The bulk of the education budget is usurped by massive salaries to the top structure within the ministry and commissions of inquiry that never see the light of day,” said the president of the Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN), Gert Jansen when approached for comment on the deteriorating classroom shortage situation in the country. In a recent New Era interview with Nangolo Mbumba, the minister of Education intimated that his ministry primarily depends on donor funding from its partners for the building of schools. “No wonder there are not enough schools in Namibia because it is clear the national education budget primarily goes into salaries and not infrastructure development. It also goes without saying that such partners normally have their own priorities and conditions in assisting governments,” said the TUN union boss. Namibian educationalists, learners and parents will be focused tomorrow on how well the ministry of education will resolve the accommodation plight of more than 2 000 grade 11 and hundreds of Grade 8 learners country wide at its envisaged meeting in the capital.