EDUCATION is the key for any nation to thrive politically, socially economically, spiritually and culturally. A nation that neglects this building block, this all-important sector, does that at its own peril and is doomed to failure, period. A nation cannot have surgeons, physicians, GPs, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, architects, town planners, pilots, accountants, auditors, lawyers, geologists, plumbers and other qualified professionals if it is bereft of a functional educational system. The much-preached Vision 2030 – the economic blueprint that is supposed to catapult Namibia into the elite league of developed nations – would be another pipedream without education. Despite some failures on the part of our education system, we should not continue to heap all the blame on teachers and administrators, as doing so is simply entirely incorrect. And apportioning all the blame on the teaching profession would just lend more weight to the Kiswahili idiomic expression “Asante ya punda ni mateke,” which loosely translates: a donkey expresses its gratitude by kicking viciously with its hooves. This sector has done us proud by persevering and remaining loyal and unwavering despite the great odds stacked against it. It is no secret that many qualified teachers still share sleeping quarters while others have to contend with mud-and-thatched roof huts. Others live in ghetto-like, cockroach and rat-infested shacks that have no running water or electricity for that matter. Under these conditions, they cannot properly prepare for the next day’s lessons or classes. Some teachers are being compelled to fetch water from streams and others have to build their own huts. Low salaries and other poor working conditions have been the norm in what was yesteryear a very dignified profession. We know education receives one of the largest chunks from the national budget with a tiny percent of this going towards the erection of teachers’ houses. Education is top on the government’s list of priorities as could be attested by its budgetary apportions over the years, but once again we remind government to keep searching for more funds – both internally and externally – so that education is never under-funded. The present flight of teachers to other sectors where the grass is apparently greener and where conditions of service are better should immediately be halted because this profession forms the very pillar of our success and should not be left to the dogs. Without an effective education system, we are doomed as a nation and Namibia as a developing country cannot afford that. We should restore this profession to its golden era by being just to teachers, paying them salaries that are commensurate with their responsibilities and their place in our society. We can restore this profession to its former glory and to the golden age of yesteryear by attracting qualified, capable and able teachers by giving them decent salaries. We can only succeed in 2007 and attain even greater academic heights by remedying the imbalances existing in the profession. Last year 13 916 Grade Ten candidates qualified for admission to Grade Eleven compared to 14 335 who qualified this year representing an increase of 3 percent. And the number of candidates qualifying for admission to Grade 11 in 2007 could increase to approximately 17 000 students depending on the number of part-time candidates that will gain admission. According to the Ministry of Education, it is expected that approximately 2 700 part-time candidates will qualify for admission to full-time Grade 11 in 2007. The lack of textbooks and other modern teaching aids are among the factors contributing to poor performance among some schools though it is incumbent upon students to take their studies seriously while parents should also play an active role in their children’s education. We can only hope and wish that the year 2007 would be a more rewarding and successful year in terms of education.
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