Accusations Fly in Education Muddle

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By John Ekongo

WINDHOEK

Despite succumbing to student pressure to ditch a controversial new system of teaching named Competency Based Education Training (CBET), management at the Windhoek Vocational Training Centre (WVTC) claim that they did nothing wrong in introducing the system.

In fact, it claims it had the full blessing of the education authorities, namely the Directorate of Vocational Education and Training (DVET), as well as the Namibia Training Authority (NTA) to introduce the system.

On the other hand, DVET refutes these claims as flimsy excuses.

The whole debacle emanates from recent media reports that a student boycott at the centre came as a result of CBET. It is claimed that CBET was introduced prematurely at the centre.

Principal at WVTC Paulus Haukongo denies the claims, maintaining that when CBET was introduced at his institution, it was done with the full consent and backing of the NTA and DVET. The full backing being referred to is an audit carried out under the auspices of the NTA.

To this effect, Haukongo argues that it was the NTA that conducted an audit to ascertain the suitability of the system and whether it can be taught at the centre.

He claimed that he was taken aback by the statement from the NTA in the media, that WVTC went ahead and introduced the system without receiving accreditation.

CBET was the brainchild of the NTA, and in order to implement it, any centre must first adhere to criteria and standards set by the NTA. These criteria the management of WVTC said they met.

A document in New Era’s possession indicates an audit was carried out during November 2007 under the auspices of the NTA, in which the NTA gave a clean bill of health to the WVTC.

The document entitled: “Training Providers Summary Audit Report” concludes that the trades of Bricklaying and Plastering, Joinery and Cabinet Making, Automotive Mechanics and Plumbing and Pipefitting can be offered under the CBET system at the WVTC.

The only exception was the trade of Office Administration, for which the audit claims the training service provider did not have all the tools, equipment and supporting services to offer the course at level 1.

With regard to the Bricklaying and Plastering trades, the NTA audit amongst other things reads as follows: “The provider has all the tools, equipment and supporting services to offer Bricklaying and Plastering. The instructors are well qualified and experienced. The provider can offer bricklaying and plastering from level 1 up to 4.”

The same reviews were given to the trades of Automotive Mechanics, Joinery and Cabinet Making. It further indicated that the WVTC is more than ready to implement the system.

Despite the consistency of the remarks made in the audit, a need to orientate the instructors on CBET was highlighted all the way by the NTA.

However, Haukongo enlightened that manuals, unit standards and guides were supposed to be supplied by the NTA for each module and given to his trainees so that they can study, but the NTA was unable to fulfil that requirement.

“Maybe there were errors from their side. Materials were not delivered on time, the NTA was in no position to deliver the materials to us and therefore the trainees got left behind with their work,” stressed Haukongo.

Haukongo said that his institution has on several occasions requested the materials but NTA has failed to deliver.

On his part, Lawrence Pringle of the NTA confirmed that indeed they carried out an assessment only to ascertain the suitability of the centre – whether it is able to teach under the new system, and found that in some instances, the centre was ready. But he said the audit was carried out on all the VTCs countrywide, a notion confirmed by the DVET.

“But this does not say that the system is accredited yet.” He said the WVTC has put his entity under pressure to get them materials, which they did.

According to the DVET, 66 curriculum modules, 66 unit standards and 22 training manuals for levels 1 to 3 were completed based on the Competency Based Education and Training curriculum (CBET).

The NTA facilitated a Curriculum, Unit Standards and Training Manuals for both instructors and trainees for the trades of Automotive Mechanics, Bricklaying and Plastering, Boilermaking, Hospitality, Tour Guiding, Structural Carpentry, Cabinet making, Welding and Fabrication, Plumbing and Pipefitting, Secretarial and Administration.

The Director of DVET, Muvatera Ndjoze-Siririka remains firm that CBET was only to be piloted by Zambezi VTC. The other entities took it on out of their own accord, but they were cautioned in advance about possible problems.

“Our focus was Zambezi, for other people who want to come on board, we did not stop them, but mind you we said that you should realize that the focus will be Zambezi VCT,” announced Ndjoze-Siririka.

He said that they chose Zambezi because it was smaller in population of trainee intakes, and as such they would be able to mitigate the impact of any problems that would arise.

Only where necessary will they offer assistance, but DVET would have preferred centres to be ready.

“Against that background, we assessed all centres countrywide to test for quality, tools equipment and environment and for WVTC. There is no denial that it is probably one of the best equipped centres in the country – that is why the audit was satisfactory, but most centres were not.”

NTA as an agent established a Project Management Unit (PMU) to pay attention to the CBET activities and coordinate with DVET.

“Yes, I would not deny that there were no problems, but design problems there was none,” said Ndjoze-Siririka, When prompted about the delays of delivering study materials to WVTC on time, Ndjoze-Siririka pointed out that the NTA as an established entity had initial problems trying to solicit funding, resources as well as human capital to assist in delivering their duties.

“At times, the NTA curriculum development unit had five people only, and these other VTCs who were not priorities, were putting a lot of pressure on the NTA to provide them materials, and we must bear in mind that NTA is donor funded,” said Ndjoze-Siririka.

Despite this, according to Ndjoze-Siririka, the NTA managed to provide job profiles, unit standards, curriculum, delivery guides and training manuals when needed, sometimes indebting the NTA to service providers.

He said that when CBET was approved by Cabinet Resolutions as a transformation process for vocational education in the country, it was required that a training organisation also get involved. Hence the birth of NTA as an agency of state responsible for overseeing not only CBET activities, but also the complete overhaul of vocational education.

In conclusion, Ndjoze-Siririka maintained that CBET is a continuous process that aims at improving efficiency, effectiveness and relevant vocational training output in the long run.

“Mistakes will be made and we are learning from those but we should not be in the business to pass the buck.”

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