Education Debate Hots Up

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Nudo on Monday in the National Assembly accused Government of flagrant double standards regarding the problems surrounding the education system in the country. In the debate on the State of Education, Nudo’s Arnold Tjihuiko accused the Government of having rejected a golden opportunity to discuss education in general, sidelining a motion asking for a review of the country’s education system during the last session. “A serious motion by the DTA requested that Namibia’s education system be reviewed in view of the fact that problems abound. Katuutire Kaura’s motion was summarily rejected, even the minister of education voted against the motion to be thrown out of the House,” said Tjihuiko. Tjihuiko and others strongly agitated for a national education conference whereby all stakeholders be invited to make inputs to help resolve the ongoing problems in education. “Education is of fundamental importance because no social, political or economic problem can be resolved without effective and adequate education. Some people see education as a way of accessing the labour market, to others education is a way of bringing about social change and accomplishing greater social equality and justice. The notion that education is the greatest equalizer is indeed true,” was the view of Reggie Diergaardt of Swapo in his contribution to the debate. Diergaardt is a former teacher. He emphatically denied that the country’s education system is under siege or in a crisis. “Education is a lifelong journey, not a destination and it is the most travelled road, one that remains under construction. As we constantly construct and improve on our education system, we ought to take cognition of the fact that there are weaknesses and shortcomings that require collective input in order to design a system that meets the unique needs of our people ,” said Diergaardt who favoured the Ministry of Education’s ETSIP programme to that of a national education indaba. Diergaardt admitted that bottlenecks do exist in the education system and cited poor socio-economic conditions, lack of sound management, inefficient educational support services, a low morale among teachers and overcrowded classrooms as the main problems. “To improve the status quo in education, we need to start off by restoring the image of the teaching profession. We also need to work hard and diligently improve the standards of education where acceptable standards are lacking. Aptitude and competency tests should be conducted to ensure the right candidates for the teaching profession are selected,” Dier-gaardt said. Asser Mbai of Nudo suggested a parliamentary hearing in all thirteen regions of the country. “The future of our country is in danger, for as long as our citizens continue to ignore the opportunities created by an educated nation, our country will experience difficulties. We need to take concrete action to rectify the education situation in the country by investigating the causes and shortcomings of the crisis and timely apply remedial action to the education system,” Mbai suggested. Swapo’s Royal Jonah Kxao/UI/O/OO agreed that the country’s education system was a matter of concern. “In my view, even a son or a daughter of a hunter/gatherer can become the president of a great nation once he or she receives appropriate education. Therefore, I would like the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare to create more pre-schools in order to prepare the youngsters for the daunting task of formal education,” he said. He expressed disappointment in the examination results in his constituency. “The failure rate of learners from Tsumkwe Combined School is very much disturbing and unacceptable. We cannot accept the fact that each and every year, only three Grade 10’s pass. Something urgently needs to be done about the situation,” said Kxao/UI/O/OO, who supported an idea for a national conference on educa-tion. Elma Dienda of the Congress of Democrats was of the opinion that the present education system is not responsive to the labour market. “We also need social workers, hairdressers and cooks, not only mathematicians and scientists. To have made mathematics and science compulsory up to Grade 10 was a big mistake. Teachers should be trained to prepare learners to engage in economical interaction. Unfortunately, the teaching profession has become a job and not a calling. Every Dick, Tom and Harry nowadays become teachers,” Dienda, who suggested more schools be built, said. Tommy Nambahu of Swapo openly questioned the functions of NIED and the country’s educational planners as important role players in the education system. “I have always been under the impression that NIED does the kind of research and studies to improve the education system and prevent debating an issue like this. It seems I have been under a very wrong impression. Maybe it’s time a parliamentary committee invites NIED for a presentation on what they do. I would also like to know how education planners do their job,” said Nam-bahu, who suggested education planners’ work portfolios need to be reviewed and revamped. Michale Goreseb of the UDF stated that there was nothing wrong with the Cambridge Education System, but that the inherent problems in the system should be rectified especially classroom accommodation at schools. Tjekero Tweya of Swapo suggested an empirical approach to the debate on the state of education in the country. “As a former teacher, but more so a parent, I would not argue that there are no problems in our education system. Many of our learners do not have a purpose in life and the ambition to succeed. There is a lack of discipline, a lack of effective administration and sadly enough there exists a lack of proper management and supervision at schools and education offices,” the Deputy Minister of Finance, who supported a national education conference, said.