By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The immediate transformation of the Namibia College of Open Learning (Namcol) into a vocational training institution for Grade 10 failures, should be considered as a matter of urgency in order to improve the education system in the country. This is one of the far-reaching proposals made by Gert Jansen, president of the Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN). Last week Friday, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Vitalis Ankama invited and challenged the Teachers Union of Namibia to make constructive inputs towards ironing out the weaknesses existing in the education system of the country. “It is TUN’s considered opinion that Grade 10 failures should be kept in schools to prevent them from roaming the streets as unemployed persons. One solution is that Namcol, a government institution, be transformed into a vocational technicon of some sort, to ensure that Grade 10 learners are not prematurely kicked out of their school careers. Technically inclined learners with a weaker academic inclination should as a matter of urgency be taken up in such an institution,” Jansen told New Era at his union’s office on Friday. The TUN boss, who left for an international teachers’ congress in the city of Seville, Spain, also expressed profound concern over the envisaged two-day consultation meeting in April by the Ministry of Education. “What really is needed right now is a 10-day national conference on education whereby the whole system will be examined and evaluated by all stakeholders including school boards, community leaders, church leaders, teachers as well as representatives of student bodies. “There is no more time for any postponement of such a national gathering if we are to salvage the Namibian education system from total destruction due to bad and ill-planning,” Jansen charged. He intimated that the government’s teacher training project at the University of Namibia needs to be upgraded to help improve the qualifications of teachers. “Presently, the BETD teacher’s training course restricts and limits successful candidates to teach only up to Grade 10. The ideal situation would be that the BETD course be expanded to allow such teachers to teach up to Grade 12. At the same time, it is important that a more stringent process be implemented by the Ministry of Education to admit would-be students into teacher colleges. The present process is too lenient, resulting in non-committed teachers landing in the profession,” he said. According to Jansen, retired teachers should be temporarily employed to assist young teachers in a practical manner for the first three months of their careers. “Most of the young teachers are inexperienced when they start. They need guidance, otherwise they continue in their job in a very uncertain manner. These veterans will be all too happy to assist in guiding the young teachers. I am sure the retired teachers can have a stimulating, inspiring and encouraging effect on the teachers and the learning process. Refresher courses for teachers should also be regularly presented for teachers by the Ministry of Education,” Jansen, who on Friday was formally invited by the Permanent Secretary of Education to serve for the next five years on the national UNESCO body, said. With regard to the appointment of teachers in vacant posts at schools, the process needs to be speeded up. “It sometimes happens that such posts remain vacant for months on end, resulting in learners being without a teacher. This also contributes to the weak results at many schools. The ideal situation would be to make an immediate appointment to ensure continuity in the profession and education system especially in rural schools. According to TUN, rural teachers need to be provided with proper accommodation and work incentives to help improve the quality of teaching. All teachers must be eligible for long service compensation. It will encourage them to stay on longer in the profession. “Teachers’ salaries should also be market-related to prevent the continuous exodus taking place yearly,” Jansen argued. The provision of teaching infrastructure and the staging of what TUN termed “winter holiday schools” should also be considered as a priority. “My union members would be more than willing to assist Grade 10 and 12s to improve their learning skills in preparation for the end of year examinations during the winter holidays. This approach has worked somewhere else and I am sure it can have a positive effect on learners as well as the overall quality of education,” the former principal at Gemeinert Primary School in Khomasdal said. Jansen suggested that the present Cambridge education system be Namibianised. “It is important for learners to be able to relate to subject matter prescribed in the existing curriculum. To many learners, the content comes across as foreign. Full-time teachers can assist in this process, which TUN deems as necessary if we are to achieve better examination results.” He urged the implementation of subject committees in all Namibian schools to approve recommended textbooks used in schools. “Furthermore, the government must seriously consider increasing the present N$42 per learner per year subsidy to at least N$100 and with N$50 each consecutive year after this year’s national education budget. “This will have a positive effect on learners and the education system, presently suffering due to a lack of facilities such as libraries and laboratories,” Jansen, who also proposed more inspectors be appointed and that all recommendations of commissions of inquiry into education be implemented, said.
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