Rural Education Shaping Up

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The mythical belief that rural teachers are less inclined as professionals is fast disappearing due to the realization that such teachers actually do go the extra mile in order to deliver quality education, inspired by ETSIP. This is the expert assessment of the Deputy Minister of Education, Dr Becky Ndjoze-Ojo, who has just returned from a three-week educational familiarization tour to many schools in 11 of the 13 regions of the country. “I was keen to visit the best and worst performing rural schools, some of which operate in total isolation, never being visited by school inspectors. I found many schools with similar problems such as a lack of infrastructure and other particular problems. Most of the schools in rural areas are backward because of a lack of resources,” Ndjoze-Ojo said in a New Era interview. She is happy to report that the morale of rural teachers is very high and that they work exceptionally hard to achieve their education goals. “I found that about 80% of rural teachers are dedicated and committed to their work despite a dire lack of resources and infrastructure. However, there are many good teachers doing their utmost best to deliver quality service under trying conditions,” said Ndjoze-Ojo, who is of the opinion that many rural teachers have taken up the challenge of improving their own qualifications through part-time studies. “In 1999 the ministry of Education urged all teachers to improve their qualifications by 2007 in the interest of themselves and education in general. The deadline is now fast approaching. Those who have not taken up the challenge will in all probability be affected, taking into account that by next year the teacher licensing system is expected to be in place,” the former University of Namibia lecturer said. During her rural tour she became aware that the dependency on government for basically everything needed in the education system has slightly gone down. “Teachers and communities are now more willing to improvise and make use of local materials to solve their problems, instead of waiting for government to provide for their every need. People and teachers are building hostels and classrooms because there exists a desire to make contributions. Though this tendency is to be welcomed, something needs to be done to encourage such teachers and communities willing to contribute,” she said. Regarding English as the medium of instruction in Namibian schools by rural teachers, the deputy minister said: “The assumption is that 16 years after independence, there should be improvement among rural teachers. Yes, there is relative improvement, but much more needs to be done to assist the rural teaching fraternity.” Ndjoze-Ojo acknowledged the fact that too much emphasis has thus far been put on the academic side of things within the Namibian education system. “I think that a second leg should be formally added with the same importance and vigour – a workable vocational sector in line with the country’s job market needs. Presently there exists a huge lack of cooperation among institutions and the labour market. Therefore, I feel the public and private sector should work more closely to positively exploit this to the fullest. Together they can own the vocational sector to the benefit of the country’s economic development,” she said. She also expressed relief that the teenage pregnancy rate in Namibian schools have over the years decreased. “With the exception of the Kunene Region, it seems that there has been a drastic reduction in teenage pregnancy, something we all should be proud of and build on to the benefit of education. I feel very much enriched and much better informed about the plight and problems of rural education,” Ndjoze-Ojo concluded. She will be visiting the Kavango and Caprivi regions when the schools reopen on September 5.