By Frederick Philander
Some 70 Namibian part-time art lecturers are starring unemployment in the face after an announcement that the National Arts Extension Programme is to be terminated by the Government come October 18.
These artists and their families have been economically dependent on the programme for more than 14 years.
“The lecturers received notices about the termination of the programme from the Ministry of Culture as part of their last part-time contract agreement. Naturally, the lecturers are all upset about this devastating news,” said the head of the programme, Lucky Pieters.
Pieters was last year appointed to head the programme.
“In late December last year we discussed possible ways of having the programme extended by the Government. However, before we could approach the Government for an extension of the programme, it was decided to terminate this much-needed and important intellectually stimulating and educational venture to the detriment of all,” said a disappointed Pieters.
He is supported in this by the Oruuano Artists Union’s secretary general, Vincent Mwemba.
“It is sad to hear that the programme is to be terminated unilaterally by the Government. We demand to get plausible and acceptable reasons for this uncalled for action, which can cause more harm to the arts industry than anything else. Undoubtedly this action will contribute to a large extend towards the national problem – unemployment,” said Mwemba.
He urged the authorities to reconsider this drastic decision as a matter of urgency.
“We will now launch a formal plea to the Prime Minister’s Office to have the decision reversed for the Extension Programme to continue for at least another five years. This decision has caught many of the lecturers unawares just as I was on the verge of getting some of the lecturers phased into the formal education system this year,” said Pieters.
According to him, negotiations between himself and principals of three secondary schools in the capital are at an advanced stage.
“I have been having formal talks with the principals of Jan Jonker Afrikaner, Shifidi and Acacia Secondary School. These principals have shown positive interest in such a pilot project aimed nationwide. These hardworking and creative lecturers are to take over the art classes at the three schools to improve the quality of arts education in State schools. Now this heartrending sad news of the termination of the programme,” the head of the NAEP said.
It is a known fact that art teachers at most Government schools are unable to teach arts either through a lack of interest in the subject or the fact that most schools consider art as unimportant for the holistic development of the learners.
A distraught Andrew van Wyk, the head of the Rehoboth School of Arts, was adamant that the authorities should reconsider its decision to terminate the programme.
“The Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture must get its act together to reconsider this decision that will have far-reaching implications to many rural artists, whose families are dependent on the income derived from the programme. Not to mention the great losses the more than 200 keen art students at our centre,” Van Wyk said in a telephone interview.
Artist Dawid Seron, lecturing art at the only primary school at Kalkrand, was equally disappointed in the news.
“I am the sole breadwinner of my family through art teaching, my livelihood,” the father of four children said.
Lucky Pieters indicated that he would “move heaven and earth” to try and have the Government’s decision reversed before the progarmme is terminated in October.
Many of the art lecturers have over the years either improved their qualifications under the auspices of the programme or have found alternative employment in the private sector.
The National Extension Programme is a product of the College of the Arts.