Mixed Feeling for autonomous schools Proposal

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK A proposal for Namibian State schools to be allowed to operate as autonomous and independent business entities by a prominent banker has been received with mixed feelings by the teaching fraternity. The Governor of the Bank of Namibia, Tom Alweendo last week appealed to the Ministry of Education to seriously consider doing away with bureaucratic red tape that stifles educational operations at schools. “There are undoubtedly a number of ministerial regulations that inhibit and to a large extent the decision making process at Namibian schools. Many principals can attest to this rather unhealthy situation on administration level at schools. Serious thought should be given to the proposal of getting rid of some of the issues hampering the smooth running of schools, not necessarily in the proposed form,” said Dennis Fredericks, the principal of David Bezuidenhout Secondary School in Khomasdal when contacted for comment. The appointment of teachers in posts at schools and the unnecessary delays in salary payments to teachers are some of the most pressing issues that should be resolved urgently by the Ministry of Education. “At present, these are long drawn out and tedious processes being referred through the existing channels to the specific responsible officials in charge of such portfolios through school boards, that make recommendations. In many cases, these recommendations are referred back and forth between schools and the Ministry of Education, a process sometimes lasting for months,” said Fredericks. He welcomed Alweendo’s proposal because according to him, a system like that will encourage ownership of schools by principals. “Such a situation will also ensure greater trust and responsibility for school principals. I would accept such greater responsibilities and the consequences in the interest of the development of education in the country,” he said. Contacted for comment, the General Secretary of the Namibia National Teachers Union (NANTU), Miriam Hamutenya said she reserves the right to comment on the proposal for the time being. Deputy president of the Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN), Schanville Mackrill partially accepted the proposal on behalf of his members. “Such a suggestion can have a revolutionary and positive impact on education in the country, but it can also be a drawback with grave consequences for principals in particular. Some principals may not be able to accept such responsibilities, whilst others might start running schools as cuca-shops,” Mackrill warned. He as a principal would be able to accept such autonomous responsibilities as the executive officer. “However, others might see the proposal as just one more gimmick to relieve the Ministry of Education of some of its responsibilities. Some of these responsibilities such as the payment of school telephones have already been ceded to school principals. Unfortunately principals walk a tight rope when it comes to the payment of for instance water supplies to municipalities for sport fields. Such principals can become tricky when it comes to payment. Presently the Ministry of Education is paying for that. This can cause more stress and frustration,” the deputy president said. It is a fact that there exist many inhibiting rules and regulations within the education system of the country that hamper development. “At the same time, through more autonomy to schools, the concept of a learning institution can be permanently lost. “Should the plan be acceptable to all concerned, it would be imperative that each school receives its own budget to operate in the fashion the Governor of the Bank of Namibia proposed. My suggestion would be that the ministry still takes overall responsibility for each school,” Mackrill suggested.