Namibia’s First Lady Monica Geingos says early childhood development (ECD) is key to the success of learners right up to tertiary level, but the country faces a dire shortage of qualified teachers at pre-primary level.
“Early childhood education is very crucial. We must focus on the basics. There is an assumption when I travel that I did not study in Namibia, but my primary to tertiary education was in Namibia. My early childhood education was very strong,” she said on Monday during the first ever State of Education Address, delivered by the Minister of Education, Arts and Culture.
The education ministry revealed at the same event that there is limited learning support material in vernacular languages, for example story books. Equally, most needy children do not have classroom space and teaching takes place in dilapidated facilities, or under trees. In most areas, there are also no playgrounds or recreational facilities.
Geingos is adamant that many of the best performing schools in Namibia are based in rural areas, despite the fact that urban schools have the best learning and teaching facilities.
She said a lack of equal access to resources can be a major stumbling block, as many intellectually gifted students have fallen through the cracks and failed to access quality education as a result.
“Access to education is an equaliser, but we lack equal access to opportunities. We must equalise resources to match abilities,” she noted.
As part of her State of Education Address the Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, said her ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, has approached the University of Namibia to develop a diploma programme for serving pre-primary teachers.
She said government has also made provision for a decentralised budget intended for the procurement of pre-primary learning support material in the local languages.
The minister further said that currently 330 000 learners in primary school phase benefit from the school feeding programme, which costs the ministry about N$90 million a year.
The programme depends largely on the willingness of parents to cook for the learners on a voluntary basis, but she said government is looking into ways to incentivise the parents.
During her speech First Lady Geingos also used the opportunity to caution against gender-based violence in the home, saying domestic violence could lead to learners bullying others at school.
“There is dysfunction in our homes. Bullying becomes a problem if a child comes from a broken home, where they are exposed to violence.
“A child can end up being bullied at school and can commit suicide, because they cannot handle it, compared to a child from a stable home. We, as parents, cannot afford to have violence in our homes,” she cautioned.