Nantu the ‘Dinosaur’ vs Education Ministry

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By Rosco Misika Lukubwe

MEDIA reports have it that the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme (ETSIP) is in constant rejection, (Philander 2007:6 & Maletsky 2007:3), by the once staunch ally in the process of educational change and renewal, (Angula 2000:22).

The once staunch ally in the process of educational change and renewal is NANTU. NANTU was once described as a partner in the reconstruction of the country by Johannes Kandombo, the former Director of Education-Ondangwa East (NANTU 2000:22).

On the contrary NANTU has recently become what union critics call a “dinosaur whose presence impedes the libratory path of free markets” (Weiner 1996:85).

Given the above background, this article seeks to examine and present insights into the issues of the Ministry of Education (MoE)’s ETSIP and the Namibia National Teachers’ Union participation in ETSIP. Local and international literature is incorporated in this article in order to support the arguments advanced.

From the outset there are two teams: NANTU and the MoE. ETSIP is at the centre of contention. The MoE is what Harman (1984:18) calls the legitimate policy formulator, while NANTU is a formalized actor in the policy process capable of exerting pressure on government officials. ETSIP aspects of contention include among others, ownership of ETSIP, immunity to accountability by some MoE public servants, teacher licensing, etc. (Philander 2007:6 & Maletsky 2007:3).

The MoE has the educational policy/programme plan that has to be implemented. Unfortunately, the vehicle of implementation and those greatly affected is the NANTU base which NANTU has the obligation to protect.

What went wrong with ETSIP? A rather tough question to answer. However, it appears that NANTU perceives ETSIP as a World Bank programme and not one of the MoE. This perception is seen from the funding aspect of the programme and not the conception of the programme.

bviously and it is generally believed that the one who has the money drives the pack to do the work. In other words, the World Bank is one of the financial giants with well-known strings attached to restructuring programmes it gets involved in.

ETSIP, in view of NANTU, is not an exemption to such World Bank strings. Observably, many governments, especially those in Africa, tend to hearken to donors at the expense of the nationals and thus silencing the voices of those who cannot speak and stand for themselves.

Given the preceding observation, although it was the Right Honourable Prime Minister Nahas Angula’s conception of the policy that was preceded by the 2003 study, (MoE 2007:v), NANTU would not buy the idea that ETSIP is a product and brainchild of the current Prime Minister. If ETSIP was the PM’s brainchild, obviously NANTU would have had a part to play in its formulation.

It is my conviction that NANTU does not entirely reject ETSIP. NANTU, as one of the educational stakeholders, would like to see an education system that is responsive to the social and economic demands of our society and to the call of the ambitious Vision 2030. In fact, ETSIP is a substantive policy/programme with resource commitment. It is a restructuring programme that is designed to address and bring about a responsive education system.

Any education policy scholar/researcher can clearly see that NANTU has the following issues to deal with in view of the reported rejections of ETSIP:

– Dual interests of teachers’ unions

Poole (1997:480) argues that when unions enter the policy-making arena, they find themselves confronted by two dilemmas – firstly the teachers’ union self interest and secondly the public education interest. This argument is observable in this respect. NANTU is in a cage where it has to deal with two dilemmas: uncompromisingly accept (acting in public interest) the programme to bring about a quality and responsive education system and protecting (acting in the union interest) the NANTU base.

The question is, can NANTU strike a balance between its union interest and the public education interest? I find myself subscribing to the argument advanced by Bascia (1998:211) who argues that acting in the union’s interest is primary to that of public education.

Given the above argument, I am convinced that NANTU will always act in the teachers’ interests and not in the learners’ education interest.

A typical example in which NANTU is acting in the teachers’ interests is over the ongoing attempt to nullify the MoE and NANTU agreement to retrench unqualified and under-qualified teachers.

To be frank, is the monthly N$64 950 received by NANTU from the reported 2 165 teachers worth the future and lives of the 75 775 – 86 600 learners?

In fact, most of these learners taught by these unqualified and under-qualified teachers are orphans and vulnerable children who cannot afford to go to schools staffed with qualified and competent teachers. Some of these teachers would not like to teach their own children but rather use their salaries earned by offering substandard teaching to send their children to good schools. Perpetual injustices and unequal access to quality education is thus being promoted.

It is my realisation as an educational manager and an educational management scholar that there is less understanding on NANTU’s part over the contribution of human capital to the speedier enhancement of quality education.

It is argued at school level, that the quickest way to bring change in school is by making use of intelligent staffing (Webb, Montello & Norton 1994: 151). It is an undisputable fact that schools staffed with qualified and competent teachers do perform well. The current curriculum for grades 1- 4 and 11-12 and syllabus changes to grades 8 -10 require well trained and continuously learning human resources and not experience.

– The MoE’s approach to policy formulation

Our beloved country is hailed by the international community to have one of the most outstanding constitutions founded on democratic principles. One of the key democratic principles on which our constitution was founded is that of participation.

Unfortunately the MoE’s top-down approach to policy formulation is undemocratic and thus an imposition of policy on members at lower levels of the MoE structure.

The top-down approach to policy formulation seems to be the genesis and the root cause for the rejection of ETSIP. The top-down approach to policy formulation denies informal policy actors the opportunity to contribute input to the policy process. Given such denial, there is no value addition to the MoE policy process.

The issue of concern on the MoE approach to policy formulation is the manner in which the MoE gets NANTU involved in its policy formulation. It appears that NANTU only gets involved in policy formulation towards the end of the policy formulation rather than when policy gets onto the MoE policy agenda.

In this respect, teachers’ union participation, practically speaking, is non-existent in the MoE policy process because participation by unions in policy process, as argued by Lukubwe (2006: 15), should entail the engagement and endeavour by unions to influence the decisions of government on policy process.

Ideally, NANTU and other policy actors’ participation should not start at the draft documents but rather from the time when educational issues are placed on the MoE policy agenda to the time when the policy is terminated or changed. I am well aware of the Recognition and Collective Agreement between NANTU and the Government of the Republic of Namibia (GRN) but at times I am convinced that conditions of the two documents are not adhered to by the MoE.

– Policy ownership

Given the above approach to policy formulation, I concur with NANTU that NANTU has no ownership over ETSIP. The reason for this is that NANTU appears to have not played a part in the formulation of ETSIP. In other words, NANTU appears to have not been accorded the opportunity to participate in the formulation of ETSIP by providing inputs to the programme.

Given such a situation, NANTU finds it difficult to support a programme that it had no part in and that programme has aspects that negatively affect its base.

As a result, NANTU will only agree to aspects that are found favourable to it and reject sthe unfavourable ones. Such rejections have serious implications for the other aspects because some of the aspects are intertwined and interwoven when implemented.

Since NANTU maintains that ETSIP is a WorId Bank programme NANTU’s reaction to the programme will be that of a reactionary and blocking aspects that negatively affect its base.

– Research capacity

As it was the case during the development of the current staffing norms, (Lukubwe 2006:97), regrettably NANTU stills lacks the research capacity to influence the MoE decisions on policy process. The fact that ETSIP was formulated after the research study makes it a well-informed policy.

Resource allocation to each aspect of ETSIP appears justifiable. Given the nature of the programme NANTU should be in position to conduct research for it to make meaningful decisions to the programme or else it will be just an impediment to envisaged education reform.

Way forward

NANTU and the MoE need not to be competitors or adversaries to each other in the policy process. Naturally, the two parties will always not take the same boat over most of the educational policy issues.

It is important to note that policy issues are always complex and decisions made are not always to the satisfaction of either parties or interest groups.
Policy decisions, in terms of ETSIP, will entail compromises on both parties. Compromises in ETSIP will be seen on aspects such as accountability, teacher licensing, etc.

Due to inevitable compromises, ETSIP, over the 15 years of implementation, will be re-articulated and re-contextualised. Re-articulation and re-contextualisation of ETSIP is already seen from the nine ETSIP versions so far published as from August 2005 to February 2007.

For the MoE, the rejection of some of the aspects of ETSIP should be seen as object lessons in terms of the implications and repercussions of stakeholders’ exclusion in policy process and the top-down approach to policy formulation.
It is time that the MoE puts aside the notion that policy formulation is a management jurisdiction only. In fact, the MoE must begin to embrace the collaborative bargaining model to policy process.

Peace (1994:365) argues that the collaborative bargaining model is a principled model that appears to satisfy everyone in the policy process because there are no winners and no losers because all those involved get focused on the educational problem at hand.

For NANTU, although it has enormous power that can paralyse or even halt the decisions and functions of the MoE, the current educational state of affairs requires all stakeholders’ pro-activeness and non-compromising decisions to bring about desirable education reform.

NANTU must weigh the option of being a union base protector against the advocacy of public education. NANTU will have to understand that quality education cannot be attained by the continuous employment of poorly trained and non-learning staff members. An opportunity cost decision has to be made in this respect. Furthermore, NANTU needs to develop research capacity in order to positively influence the MoE policy process.

List of sources
ANGULA, N. 2000. Education for all: How it all began. In Taylor, E (ed.) Education in perspective: Namibia’s first decade. A commemorative publication on Namibia’s tenth anniversary of independence. Windhoek: Ministry of Higher Education, Vocational Training, Science and Technology.
BASCIA, N 1998. The next step in teacher union reform. Contemporary Education, 69 (4): 210-213.

HARMAN, G 1984. Conceptual and theoretical issues. In Hough, JR (ed). Education Policy. New York: St Martin’s.

LUKUBWE, RM 2006. The role of the Namibia National Teachers’ Union in the development of the staffing norms policy in Namibia. M Ed Dissertation of limited scope. Pretoria: UNISA.

MALETSKY, 2007. Teachers reject Etsip plan. The Namibian 2007:3
PEACE, NE 1994. A new way to negotiate-collaborative bargaining in teacher contract negotiations: the experience in Massachusetts School Districts. Journal of Law and Education, 23(3): 365-379.

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION (MoE) 2007. The Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme (ETSIP). Windhoek, Namibia.

PHILANDER, F. 2007. Union objects to ETSIP proposals. New Era 2007:6
NAMIBIA NATIONAL TEACHERS’ UNION (NANTU) 2000. A proud history of the struggle of the Namibia National Teachers’ Union (NANTU) from 1989 to 2000. The Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI) (ed). Windhoek: Capital Press.

POOLE, WL 1997. The construction of a paradox and the teacher union’s role in the complex change. Journal of School Leadership, 7(5): 480-505.
WEBB, LD, MONTELLO, PA & NORTON, MS 1994. Human resource administration: personnel issues and needs in education. 2nd edition. New York: Macmillan College.

WEINER, L 1996. Teacher’s unions and school reform: Examining Magaret Haley’s vision. Education Foundation, 10(3):85-96.
About the author.

– Rosco Misika Lukubwe is the Principal of Oshilulu Combined School in Oshigambo Circuit, Oshikoto Region and writes in his personal capacity. He holds HED (Sec) from the University of Namibia (UNAM); Baccallaureus Educationis (Honours): Education Management Law and Systems from Potchefstroomse Univeristeit vir Christelike Ho??????’??

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