By Irene !Hoaes
“We are not denying that the education system has problems, in fact we are admitting that there are some weaknesses,” spokesperson of the Ministry of Education, Toivo Mvula, said in response to a recent statement by the mining sector on the quality of Namibia’s education sector.
“And that is exactly why the ministry has come up with ETSIP, the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme,” Mvula added.
ETSIP is a comprehensive reformation of the education and training sector and runs from 2005/6 to 2020.
The ministry’s strategic plan sets targets for the entire education and training sector, which include pre-primary education, general education, vocational education training, tertiary education and training, knowledge and innovation, culture and lifelong learning, information and communication technology and HIV/AIDS.
“ETSIP will work if all of us work together – it needs support. It does not help to go to the media – rather read ETSIP and send suggestions to the ministry so that we can incorporate those in the document,” Mvula charged.
Mvula said ETSIP is a long process and it will take a long time.
“Things cannot already improve – things take a while to improve,” Mvula defended.
He noted that the ministry is also investing in critical subjects such as Mathematics, English and Science.
He added that there is progress in school enrolment compared to the pre-independent era.
Mvula reminded all education stakeholders that ETSIP is not a fixed document and can be changed any time depending on the input it gets from stakeholders and partners in the sector.
“The ministry is not denying that education has problems, we are also investing in training so that it can be relevant to industry,” Mvula added.
The ministry said although many positive things have been achieved, there are also shortcomings.
Some of the shortcomings identified are that too many children are not gaining the basic skills of functional literacy and numeracy, while progress towards equity has not been rapid enough.
“More than that, at the current level of performance in education, we will not be producing citizens who are capable of making Namibia a knowledge-based economy as is expected of us in Vision 2030,” a document of the ministry reads.
The ministry also identified serious management and efficiency issues, while the salary bill of the ministry is also higher than what the country can afford although the biggest chunk of the national budget is devoted to the sector.
As a result, vital inputs such as textbooks and other learning materials are reduced, threatening the quality of learning.
The ministry’s spokesperson identified schools in rural areas as poor performers, although the problem is not confined to those schools alone.
Informal school structures are also identified as problems contributing to an unconducive environment for learners to perform in their schoolwork.
“Some teachers do not want to go teach in rural areas, which is also one of the biggest problems facing the sector,” Mvula added.
Mvula noted that the ministry is not employing unqualified teachers anymore and all regional offices have been instructed to do the same.
He however declined to comment on the grace period unqualified teachers were granted as the matter is under discussion.
The Ministry of Education and the Namibia National Teachers Union (NANTU) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on December 15, 1999 which stipulated that unqualified and under-qualified teachers will be given seven years until 2007 to upgrade their qualifications.
The education ministry is planning a retreat this week in Otjiwarongo where critical issues will be discussed.
The Grade 10 issue is among the critical issues that will be discussed at the meeting.
It is not the first time that the country’s education system comes under attack.
Previously, both the University of Namibia and the Polytechnic of Namibia complained about the quality of education in the country.