‘We All Are to Blame’

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New Era’s John Ekongo interviewed Neville Andre Itope, the Secretary General of Namibian National Student Organisation (NANSO) about the present critical Grade 10 issue.
Some excerpts:

New Era:
Let’s go straight into the Grade 10 issue. With regard to the statement from the Ministry of Education of Grade 10 learners returning back to formal school. For an organization such as Nanso how core is this issue to your organization?

Andre Itope:
It is at the very core because we are talking about young people being given a second chance and opportunity. The issue of Grade 10 failures actually contributes to the social exclusion of young people. The issue also contributes to moral degeneration of young people and so many other social evils. Many of us have partly contributed to the failure of Grade 10, through a lack of skills. The nation has been crying due to a lack of skills in the labour market and unemployment. This is something that has been made worse by not allowing 16 and 17-year-old learners to advance and progress in education, especially after Grade 10.

Does this mean that Nanso supports the idea that those Grade 10 failures should return to formal school?

Yes, we strongly welcome, agree and completely support the announcement by the Minister and again by the President when he addressed the same issue at a rally in Walvis Bay. We agreed when it was initially announced. We went as far as expressing satisfaction to the minister that it was a welcome gesture.

Seemingly government has made a U-turn on the issue of Grade 10. What is your organization’s take on this?

Yes, we did not take kindly to it, not at all. We had a meeting with the minister and his officials and we engaged them about many other problems including the Grade 10 issue. The indication there was that the Grade 10 repeat announcement would be implemented.
Both Nanso’s and the ministry’s understanding is that only Grade 10 failures of last year will be allowed back to formal school.
Many of these learners still need to be placed in schools. We are talking about a platoon system where you find that classes will be offered in the afternoon to allow for space, and tents where there are not enough facilities or infrastructure.

Did Nanso point out to the Education Ministry and the Government the implications and complications to allow Grade 10s back in school.

I think the issue is that we are confident that the ministry will successfully implement its decision. During the meeting the minister informed us that his ministry was aware of the cost implications. Of course we are, inter alia, talking about classrooms, teacher salaries. I think the problem of the Grade 10s lies deeper within the education system. When one looks at the promotion system from Grade 1 up to Grade 10, learners are not really inspired to work hard, but are seemingly just pushed forward.
This is a pertinent problem that needs to be resolved to understand the issue of the Grade 10s.

What does Nanso propose as a resolution to all these problems in the interest of learners in this country?

We have been initiating in collaboration with other institutions on our own to bring about afternoon classes in which we want to concentrate on Grade 10.
We had something similar in 2006 with volunteer teachers. We want to bring that back so as to complement the existing structures. We are in agreement with the National Youth Council, which indicated holiday schools as a possible solution.

Who is to be blamed for all this?

All of us. First, education starts at home. Parents need to be in touch with the learners’ education.
Encouragement is needed to assist learners by anyone able and capable of doing so.

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