By Clemens Kashuupulwa
The education system in Namibia has become an issue of everyday discussion at national, regional and local levels. There is need to come up with appropriate approaches to improve the learning environment of learners in Namibia.
In democratic Namibia, participation of the public in decision-making is a right and not a privilege. The public has thus the right to register their opinions on issues that affect their lives.
There is nothing wrong with opening up national dialogue to find a long-lasting solution to improve the education system of Namibia. Education in Namibia is a national issue. The government, parents, teachers, the school board members and individuals [stakeholders] too, are puzzled as to why there have been no significant improvements in the education system for the past 17 years.
The total full-time candidates who sat for the Junior Secondary Certificate [JSC] examinations in 2007 was 31 961 but only 15 330 or 47.6 percent qualified to proceed to Grade 11, an improvement of only 2.1 percent when compared to the Junior Secondary Certificate examination of 2006.
Also, the Grade 12 Namibia Senior Certificate Ordinary Level examination indicated that 31 243 candidates sat for examinations of which 16 795 were full-time candidates but only 3 256 learners qualified for university admission this year.
Deputy Minister of Education Dr Becky Ndjoze-Ojo eloquently stated that “the full-time candidates performed poorly in 2007. It should be noted that a significant increase of 13 358 or 14.5 percent as well as the change from IGCSE to the new Namibia examinations are factors that have a negative effect on the examinations results.”
For the past 17 years, the passing rate in the education system of Namibia’s Grade 10 and Grade 12 has been below 50 percent.
As a people, all of us [experts in education, and individuals] are challenged to offer better approaches on how education in Namibia can be improved.
Criticizing the government alone does not make any impact at all. There are many factors that lead to poor performances among some learners, parents and teachers in education.
Many people are happy that the government has done much above 60 percent in the development process of education at the level where it is today. In terms of budgeting, in all development sectors, education has always received the lion’s share every year.
All the necessary input, such as providing material incentives to teachers, creating additional infrastructure and all essential facilities have proved the unquestionable commitment and hard work on the part of the government to gradually and systematically put on track quality and decent education in Namibia.
For the past 17 years, the government has been making gradual progress in education to be accessible to all children, the youth, adults and children under six years of age.
The challenge for significant improvement in the learning environment of children in Namibia is due to those who are dealing with planning, monitoring, [inspections] evaluating and assessing progress of the implementation of Namibia’s education curricula vitae.
However, credit must also go to where it is due as some stakeholders in education have invested more input than others, making some learners to have done exceptionally well more particularly those who proceed to the University of Namibia and Polytechnic of Namibia. Others are also studying at other universities elsewhere in the world.
The government has also gone to the extent of providing child welfare grants to orphans and vulnerable children [OVC]. Until March 2007, the government has registered more than 139 700 orphans and vulnerable children countrywide whereby more than 64 700 others benefited from the social grants at a cost of N$10 572 000. This is done to make sure that everybody is on board to have access to education.
Government policies are also in place for early childhood development, learners at primary, secondary and tertiary education. Vocational education and training, the promotion of literacy and human resources development in general are guided by government policies too and are well on track for implementation.
Many strides have been made in the education system of Namibia for the past few years. Students’ enrollment at the Polytechnic of Namibia grew from 3 000 in 2001 to 7 000 by 2006. The programmes offered grew from 20 in 2001 to 70 in 2006.
These include the two post-graduate master’s degree courses and 20 undergraduate degrees.
At the University of Namibia, “the enrollment of students grew also to 10 000 in 2006”. This has necessitated the Unam Council’s decision to extend academic programmes to the Oshakati Northern Unam Campus. Today, “over 600 young Namibians have been trained at colleges in Zimbabwe as mathematics and science teachers through a bilateral agreement between the Namibian and Zimbabwean government”.
Recently, the South African-based and Namibian born academician, Dr Joseph Diescho, in his usual rhetorical propaganda, addressed the Namibian people in Windhoek that “Namibia’s education system is not at all working due to the fact that school learners can still not sing, think and do arithmetic 17 years after independence”. What does this mean?
This is not clear to many people whose children are at schools in Namibia.
While it may be understood well to many intellectuals in Namibia, it may also confuse and create an impression to many ordinary citizens that the Namibian education is not development-oriented and has no significant quality at all.
However, the true state of affairs is that numerous strides of several landmarks have been made that have led to students in their thousands graduating at both the University of Namibia and Polytechnic of Namibia, Agricultural Colleges, Vocational Training Centres in Namibia and Teacher Training Colleges for the past 10 years. These are facts based on absolute truth.
Many of those graduates are doing exceptionally well both in the public and private sectors in Namibia. Why does Dr Diescho make such naked propaganda statements in the public that have no substance at all?
Can the heads of those institutions tell the nation the truth about the true state of affairs of the education system in Namibia?
The nation has always been fed with misinformation and propaganda for reasons only known by some academicians with hidden agendas.
Professor Diescho was addressing “more than 200 people on the occasion that marks the 30th anniversary of TUCSIN in Windhoek earlier in January 2008 on the invitation of TUCSIN leadership”. The lecture was entitled ‘Education is a Pre-condition for Responsible Citizens and Accountable Leadership’ as appeared in the New Era of January 28, 2008 under “Education System Not Working – Diescho”.
Half Baked Statements
The Namibian people recognise the rights of individuals who frequently invite Dr Diescho to come to Namibia, to share and impart skills, knowledge and wisdom to our people. However, some of us are tired of being fed with half baked empirical statements and unsubstantiated information that give false impression to the nation on what is really happening in Namibia.
True, there are challenges in the education system of Namibia just like in any other countries in the world. But, to say that “education in Namibia is not working” is stretching the truth a little far even for an anti-SWAPO-led Government doctor whose goal is to vilify its leaders in the Party and Government.
Again, the fact that “Vision 2030 lacks a central office to administer programmes” and “at the moment is too comprehensive to be a programme”, does not reflect any truth at all.
Also to mention that “where do you start [with Vision 2030] and who does what? By the time 2030 comes, who will be there”?
It is unfortunate that such ill advised sentiments are being propagated by a person of Dr Diescho’s academic stature. He said: “Most African countries nowadays have such visions to qualify for assistance” and that “Vision 2030 is a great and noble idea, but a United Nation’s idea” and “not a Namibian plan”.
Does it really matter where an initiative or vision is transplanted from?
Whether it is the United Nation’s idea, Chinese, United States of America’s ideas or even that of Dr Diescho himself, that is not the issue at all. In the contemporary world, outstanding personalities are applying, borrowing ideas from many great thinkers that are applicable to their situations.
What is important to Namibia with Vision 2030, is to have a strategic long-term development plan, that guides the government for budgeting and fund allocation on a yearly basis to facilitate the successful implementation of its capital development projects and programmes. This is done in the short, medium and long-term successive strategies.
It is true that any government, business entity or corporate institution needs to plan ahead to qualify for financial assistance. There must be a strategic plan and a business plan, to qualify for financial assistance from donor agencies or commercial institutions. There is nothing wrong for Namibia to have a vision in place in order to qualify for any development funds.
Namibia’s Vision 2030 is feasible and is viable for implementation. It is simple, measurable, applicable, realistic and timeous [SMART] for implementation and is already on track.
His Excellency the President of Namibia, Comrade Hifikepunye Pohamba recently assured the SWAPO Party Central Committee leaders that “the implementation of our Third National Development Plan [NDP 3] will start in earnest in the 2008/2009 financial year. This is indeed crucial because our NDPs are the building blocks of Vision 2030 that will take us a long way towards the achievement of our objectives as outlined in Vision 2030 for prosperity, stability and progress for our country”.
In the contemporary world, no government, parastatal, NGO, or any business entity can get financial assistance if there is no strategic development plan in place on how the funds are going to be used or the funds are being sought for a certain development project.
In Namibia, Vision 2030 is centrally administered by the National Planning Commission [NPC] in the Office of the President of the Republic of Namibia.
It is unfortunate for the South African-based academician and Namibian born citizen who frequently gives lectures on education in Namibia to distort the truth and reality on the ground. Anyway, it is Dr Diescho’s right to say whatever he wishes for the reasons that suit his agenda.
White Afrikaners “made laws that brought us to where we are today, where most of us sit with a huge syndrome of a black inferiority complex. Because of the manifestation of that complex, African people still suffer from self-doubt, self-pity and consequently self-hate.” Dr Diescho said this in mocking language not knowing that this is an insult to the Namibian people who suffered humiliation, oppression and exploitation of the highest order during the course of the defunct apartheid-colonial era.
Precisely this is how Namibians were humiliated by the powers that be in Namibia. Remnants of the apartheid and colonial era in Namibia are pleased for Namibians to be reminded still of the way colonial masters perceived the Namibian people with such connotations.
Anyway, that is Dr Diescho’s usual fashion to make Namibians look ridiculous and SWAPO Party leaders in particular, forgetting that being a Namibian citizen, he owes the nation to contribute to the social, economic and cultural development of Namibia as he was inactive and a fence sitter in the struggle for the national independence of Namibia.
Some of the opportunists are dreaming big to remain in foreign countries forever. Time will come when they will find themselves permanently in Namibia, the country of their birth.
History will shame their rhetoric and political propaganda against the Namibian people and dump them in the basket of history.
As a nation, we are not expecting some of these opportunists and intellectual prostitutes to come up with development-oriented offers to effect change in Namibia.
Some of them, they do not want Namibia to develop for reasons only known to themselves.
Mere political propaganda that discredits the government in its efforts to effect change in Namibia will be doomed to failure and shall not tarnish the SWAPO Party leadership.
Whether one likes or not, SWAPO Party is mandated by the Namibian people with a two-thirds majority through democratic elections that were held in Namibia since independence in 1990.
It is true, improvement in the education system of Namibia is necessary. The government needs more inputs from all stakeholders in education for educational reform.
For Namibia to achieve quality education is a process that involves a long-term strategic planning for the realization of the country’s envisaged journey towards the year 2030.
True, in education, for Vision 2030 to be realised the government has to sacrifice resources and introduce several restructuring processes “to provide the required skills for self-employment to meet labour market demands through the alignment of the existing training institutions to national development priorities”.
These appeared in the 5-year Strategic Development Plan [NDP3] of Namibia 2008. Under education reforms, Namibia, by the Year 2030 shall strive towards the realisation of its broad goal of “accelerated economic growth, social development, eradication of poverty and social inequality and reducing unemployment especially among the youth”.
The journey is imbedded, with financial constraints but that is the destination the SWAPO Party-led government sets for itself to achieve. There are no doubts, Victory is certain. Aluta Continua!
– Clemens H. Kashuupulwa is a member of the SWAPO Party Central Committee and is the Governor of Oshana Region.