Age Is Just a Number

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Although many villagers are under the impression their children will not be admitted to primary schools if they are older than the normal enrolment age of six years, this is not the case, according to policy guidelines on education. Lately, rural communities have been concerned that children older than six may not be taken into the mainstream classroom education system because of being over-aged. In any rural setting, children are mostly engaged in cattle rearing and communal chores ultimately resulting in them enrolling late at school. As stated in the latest Caprivi Regional Poverty Profile report, concerns have been raised that due to long distances to schools in remote areas, children often start school late. However, according to the Ministry of Education, every Namibian child is entitled to education irrespective of age. There are no restrictions on access to education. Even if a child is nine or twelve years old, he or she may still enrol for grade one. “As long as a child is under 16 years, he or she is entitled to free education,” said Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Education, Toivo Mvula. This notion falls well in line with the Namibian Constitution’s Article 20 that clearly states: “All persons shall have the right to education.” Children shall also not be allowed to leave school until they have completed their primary education or have reached the age of 16 years. In Namibia, enrolment age for Grade One is six years or when a child turns seven by November of the same year. However, in most cases, it happens that children in villages do not have access to schools near where they live and usually start school late. “This is happening a lot in the Omaheke Region with the San kids where they even start school at the ages of 13 to 14 years,” said Mvula, adding that these children have the right to attend school irrespective of age. According to the Education Act 16 of 2001, “A child who is older than 10 years of age may not to be admitted to the first grade in state school without the approval of the Permanent Secretary. However, if a child is older than 16 years, then he or she can be placed in an alternative learning programme.” This refers to Adult Basic Education that caters for people between the ages of 15 to 64 years of age. It is here that the child will get education, without being left behind and later to join in the mainstream education. The Education Act states that a person who is older than 21 years of age may not be admitted to any grade in a state school unless that person already was enrolled in a state school the previous year and promoted to the next grade. Such a person will rather join the adult literacy programme being offered at regional education offices countrywide. Last year, close to 24 000 people took part in this programme, which starts in April and ends in November every year. It is here that they learn the basics of reading and writing skills. The second option in this case is to join the Namibian College of Open Learning, Namcol, to further one’s education.