Educating for the Streets?

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By Charles Siyauya

– Give Education Not Excuses
Namibia’s Vision 2030 minus year 2008 leaves us with 22 years to have a better advanced Namibia. When this era arrives, everyone apparently will enjoy life to the maximum, whereas suffering, inequalities, unemployment will be history; buried 500 meters deep underground.

What is obvious is that in 2030, the current layer of leaders in Namibia will expire in old age homes and the youth of today will be positioned and entrusted with positions of trust to drive Namibia politically, economically, socially, culturally and religiously forward. Today, this sounds like a dream but in reality this is meant to happen in 22 years.

However, a million-dollar question is: Are the youth of today ready and prepared to accept this challenge if they are deprived of a second chance to get formal education? Is the current national leadership equipping the youth of today with the necessary tools to drive and arrive safely at a better tomorrow or do they view the youth of today as a national burden? I have no answer but let the reader answer this question!

It is worth mentioning that our forefathers and mothers have done their groundwork to perfection in preparing the current generation of national leaders. The current leaders – they are what they are today or know what they know because of those who have gone before. It is based on this solid foundation and foresightedness that I salute our forefathers and sincerely wish that their African spirit will be with us now and forever.

I strongly believe and acknowledge that a lot has been done towards the betterment of young people in Namibia, and a lot is still being done and a lot will be done to prepare the Namibian youth to lead the nation tomorrow, but more needs to be done today, more especially for the “born free Namibians” – meaning those born after independence and going to vote for the first time in the 2009 elections.

The born free Namibians need every Namibian’s (private and public sectors’) concerted effort, time and energy to be prepared to accept the responsibility to lead the nation.

I am fully convinced that the spinal cord of good leadership and a better Namibia is education. Education is the best gift the Government can ever give to a Namibian child because no one can steal it. With sound education, they will be able to compete internationally with their peers, they will be able to know more about the environment around them, education will enable the young people to analyze things before accepting them as facts or taking them for granted, enable them to be innovative, and enable young people to be useful and productive citizens in society. Education helps young people to change from traditional man to an economic man, helps Namibia to achieve economic growth and not only economic growth but sustainable economic growth as well.

Why So Difficult?

Education is high on Namibia’s political agenda, yet we witness high illiteracy, high school dropout rates, high regional and gender differences, low school enrolment, high annually unsound academic results. Whereas top on government budget is education but where exactly in the education sector does this money go if not on building more schools, buying more textbooks, employing Unam and college graduates?

Where do we get it wrong? Interesting enough, Namibia is a signatory to the “World Declaration on Education for All”, and achieving universal primary education is also part of the UN’s Millennium Goals (UNDP2003).

Target 3 says: Ensure that by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. Today in 2008 and numerically left with 7 years to meet that goal, we are backsliding with Grade 10 and 12 dropouts.

Furthermore, the Namibian Constitution is clear and states that every Namibian child must be in school until they complete Grade 7 or reach the age of 16. However, this aim is not completely reached because the majority of the 16 years-old and below are residing in prisons, some are called street kids and ‘malalapipe’ as if streets and pipes gave birth to them.

Yet, we are optimistically told that: “Namibia’s major natural resource are its people and the wealth of this country will be created by the quality of its citizens.”

These swarms of young people are the majority of voters. These swarms of young people are the majority in the Namibian prisons and legally classified as juvenile offenders.

These swarms of young people are the majority of those who could not make it to Grade 11 and tertiary education in 2008 and they are educationally defined as Grade 10 and 12 school dropouts, which is a big donation made by the Ministry of Education to the Namibian streets.

These swarms of young people are the main reasons why profit-making institutions in the likes of Namcol, Tucsin, PATS survive.

These swarms of young people need nothing but quality formal education as opposite to the ministry’s forced informal open learning education. I repeat, they only need a simple genuine second chance to repeat grades 10 and 12 in 2008.

Why can’t they repeat if some leaders in politics, church and villages are always campaigning vigorously for the second, third, sixth term in office?

Why not afford our young people only a second chance to get an education which is key to their survival? I strongly believe this is not too much to ask.

The Ministry of Education is playing with the lives of this specific group of young people. We fully understand the ministry’s position that the schools are overcrowded by young people, but it is also true that our streets and prisons are overcrowded by young people.

Denying the young people a second chance to repeat grades 10 and 12 in formal government schools for that matter is a total violation of the Namibian child’s right to quality decent education, and disregard of the needs and aspirations of the young people of Namibia by those entrusted with power to effect change.

This encourages one to question the existence of the Ministry of Education in Namibia if it cannot provide education to those who need it the most? Or maybe the educational planners and advisers can educate ordinary citizens like Siyauya as to what they are planning or advising. The recent contradicting pronouncement by the Ministry of Education is not acceptable and must be rejected in its totality by progressive peace-loving Namibians.

If one looks back into time when the author of this letter was a National Deputy Secretary General of NANSO, there was a popular slogan which said: “Education is a right and not a privilege” which we used to remind our leaders in Government.

Allow me Dear Reader to borrow it from the past and extend it to the Ministry of Education of today and I repeat: “Education is a right and not a privilege.”

It is a must that every Namibian child should have equal access to quality education. It is and was not our choice that we the young people of today arrived late on earth or our choice to be in public schools whereas the children of policy-makers, CEOs and business tycoons are in private schools.

This is the situation we find ourselves in today and we never made it nor did we choose it.

Ironically, the children of most of those entrusted with the huge responsibility to better our formal education system are in private schools. In other words, they cook food which they themselves do not eat or even intend to taste and Siyauya wonders how do you honestly market such a product or genuinely evaluate the curriculum content, if you don’t have a taste of it but just remote controlling it?

It is a naked truth that the children of those who have a lot of money today are getting better education in private schools based in Klein Windhoek, and this in the long run translates into better paid job prospects as compared to a child who gets his/her education in a school in Katutura or Schuckmannsburg, who will end up getting a lower paid job and yet we preach bridging the gap between the rich and the poor by 2030. Who is fooling who here?

As long as our policy intervention advocates for what I want to define as “first class citizens “(young people in private schools) and “second class citizens”(young people in public schools) inequalities will still exist come 2030.

The first class citizen as is the case with their parents today will continue in future to reside in high-walled electrified security fence dwellings because they want to protect their wealth from being stolen by the second class citizens who our policies today relegate to lower paid jobs and stealing as the best option to earn a living.

This scenario leads to a culture of deficit of trust of citizens in fellow citizens.

This squarely translates into animosity and disorder in society settings, which I bet will be one of the possible results come 2030.

There are main reasons why learners and students fail in Namibian schools and genuine reasons why they deserve a second opportunity to repeat.
Reasons such as:

– Long walking distance to school. When children reach school they are completely tired and that leads to lack of classroom concentration, and as a result sleep in class instead of listening attentively.

– Long walking distance to school leads to late school entry for many young children – in other words they start school while they are old or at an advanced age.

– Some students are taught while hungry as a result of the socio-economic character of the pupil’s household.

– Some parents cannot simply afford the educational cost and this is true. One wonders as to why innocent children should be deprived of their birthright to education due to the unfortunate situation their parents find themselves in today.

– Some teachers and lecturers simply fail to penetrate the minds of the learners and some fail to construct sense. Most of these teachers normally call these unfortunate learners dull, backward thinkers.

The name-calling episode victimizes these poor learners and instills a sense of hopelessness which in itself is an obstruct to conducive learning and must be stopped.

– Some teachers do not teach or lecture but read directly from textbooks because of lack of preparation or lack of knowledge of the subject content. One wonders as to why all public servants are employed and paid to work eight hours a day but most teachers work from 08h00 -13h00.

I think it will be useful and interesting for the trade unions to find out and inform us as to where some of these teachers spend time from 14h00 -17h00 which they are paid for – if they most of the time, if not all the time constantly come unprepared to class.

– Some negative attitudes of some teachers towards children from poor household or children associated with HIV/AIDS cases.

– Some parents desperately need their children’s labour in domestic work to alleviate poverty at the household level.

– Some deplorable community school hostels such as Malota at Schuckmannsburg in Kabbe constituency and Omuhaturua Primary School in Epukiro constituency and many others are a threat to young people’s lives and must be done away with.

– Absenteeism of some teachers due to long sick leave or being absent a few days after pay or just mere absenteeism for reasons best known to these specific teachers.

– Lack of rural electricity in some school hampers learners’ academic achievements.

– Lack of parental involvement of parents in education of their children.

– Lack of culture of care for orphans, vulnerable children as well as children whose parents are in prison or no more on earth.

– Lack of teaching and learning aid in schools to create or improvise reality.

– High expenditure on books and uniforms.

– Ever escalating child and women abuse in most homes in Namibia, whereby children feel safe at school than at home – this hampers homework space and child care.

– Noise pollution due to shebeens in most residential areas.

– The aspects of teenage pregnancy whereby children are giving birth to children. This affects girl child education because of maternity leave which disconnects their academic year.

The abovementioned reasons are some of the reasons why it is so difficult to reach the aims of education for all as well as genuine reasons why school dropouts must be afforded a second chance to repeat grades 10 and 12.

Their failing in schools must not be attributed to ignorance or lazy or dull or being stupid as others in the Ministry of Education might think of it but it is a number of national cross-cutting issues which affects their academic performance in Namibian schools.

In conclusion, at no point in time did the author intend to offend anyone with this opinion piece of reasoning. On the contrary, this article articulates views that the author finds hard to keep to himself because of the intensity of the situation that negatively affects the ordinary Namibian child.

Should this article sound offensive to anyone, kindly accept my apology in advance and I rest my case, right here.

Charles Siyauya
In my capacity as an ordinary Namibian youth.

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