School Principals Mull New Dynamic Approach By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK In light of the blame game that was played over the high failure rate and poor performance of the majority of learners during end-of-year exams last year, school principals are addressing the issue hands-on through an initiative called “excellence in education”. The onus is now on educational authorities like principals to change their mindset and management styles for the benefit of the learners. The thrust is to move away from the old mindset to a more dynamic and progressive approach. Consequently, more than 50 school principals from all over the country recently converged at Walvis Bay to address the challenges of the education system. They also brainstormed on new ways aimed at assisting learners to perform better. During the deliberations, the challenge was for all Namibian principals to promote “learner success, relationship teaching and connectedness”. It was felt there was a strong need for competent leadership and a management driven style that would spearhead the overall performance of the country’s education system. Early this year, educationalists and critics expressed worry over the same old story of the high failure rate and poor performance of learners. Figures for Grade 10 and 12 last year showed that of the 30 000 Grade 10 learners, more than 50 percent failed to score 23 points to qualify for Grade 11 this year. Less than 3 000 Grade 12 learners from a total of 26 000 qualified to be admitted to the Polytechnic of Namibia and the University of Namibia. Not only did the long standing scenario stir a critical debate in the country, but also the need for all relevant stakeholders in the sector to play a pro-active role in improving the situation. “We tend to always play the blame game and every year is the same story of many learners failing. Therefore we saw the need to come together at the end of last month to bring all the principals under one umbrella,” said Dennis Fredericks, the headmaster of Dawid Bezuidenhoudt High School yesterday. Under the Namibian Principals’ Association (NPA), the majority of the principals at the conference remained committed to change the situation around for the benefit of the school children under their jurisdiction. “In the past, we were operating too much in isolation and this time around we thought what can we do as principals or pick up for our learners,” said Fredericks. “We are still stuck with the old fashioned style of teaching and now we have to learn how to tackle the millennium kids at schools with a completely new mindset. We need to remain sharp as principals by professionally developing the leadership of our schools,” he elaborated. For most of the principals, the latest conference held on June 30 to July 1 was an “eye-opening experience”. Officially opening the conference Deputy Minister of Education Dr Becky Ojo-Ndjoze said there must be a continuous effort and endeavour to improve the ailing state of the country’s education system for the better. “You as principals are important instruments of change because you directly touch children’s lives, you mentor and guide your teachers and teaching assistants and represent the face of a school to parents and the wider community,” said Ojo-Ndjoze. It appears generally that school leadership is a challenging and complex task due to changing times, but in view of this, educational authorities are the catalysts of change, she urged. “If a learner is wearing a shirt hanging outside, then develop new ways of coming up with a uniform that can somehow encompass this new change. Don’t always try to fight against them, but rather solve the problem with them,” stated Fredericks. On its part the Ministry of Education has developed a booklet entitled: Guidelines for School Principals, as a practical tool that helps them in leadership and in nurturing innovative styles of teaching in the changing education environment. The deputy minister said the ministry is aware that “all is not well in education” and it is a tremendous challenge that needs a collective effort from not only government but principals, motivated and respected teachers, a dedicated community and eagerly inspired learners at the end of the day. She concluded that by exposing young people to credible career alternatives they could in future make meaningful contributions to the country’s socio-economic development. It is only in this way that Namibians can improve the quality of education that has been a subject for ongoing debate since the beginning of the year.
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