Is our education system at war with society?

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Martin Luther King Jr. said that: “One of the greatest problems of history is that the concept of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites – polar opposites – so that love is identified with a resignation of power, and power with a denial of love. What is needed is the realisation that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anaemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love”.

In a globalised world, it is vital to agree on universal ethical principles that would safeguard human dignity, protect people from suffering and provide strict guidelines for the preservation of co-existence and mutual respect. Teachers are entrusted with a daunting responsibility of developing learners holistically to meet the demands of the ever-changing world. One would hope that in pursuit of these endeavours, teachers and learners toil as partners in education pursuing a common goal, the learners’ holistic development on the basis of mutual respect.

Unfortunately, the state of affairs observed in numerous Namibian schools is ridiculous and very irritating. They work as divergent proxies, who each want to prove a point. At a distance, one may conclude that there is a conflict between freedom and power. Learners are aware that they have rights, and on the other hand teachers feel they need to execute authority over learners.

Where does the actual problem lie? Have you asked yourself, for example, why the Oshana Region is second from top in grade 10 results and second from the bottom in Grade 12 results for 2015? We have committed leaders and teachers, but their efforts are in vain! Need I say more?

One columnist wrote: “While our education system is partly to blame for why many young people failed to pass the Grade 12 hurdle, it is also true that some young people have squandered their own life opportunities. While that is indeed the case, it would be insensitive of us to kick a man while he is already down.”

Inasmuch as I would love to agree with the columnist, I would like to set the record straight that some men when they are down still have the guts to retaliate when one is attempting to raise them up. I feel strongly that the problem resides in ministerial policies, which are adopted from elsewhere without adaptation. For example, the issue of corporal punishment that was abolished without any tangible replacement. All one is told is discipline from within, which has proved to be useless to say the least.

In contemporary society, learners are made to feel that they have more rights than responsibilities, which consequentially makes teachers act as though they have more power than love. Learners no longer respect other learners, as well as teachers, staff members, and their own parents. What is worrisome is the fact that these learners, mostly boys, eventually become immune to disciplinary measures.

This becomes worse when disciplinary decisions are undermined by authorities. It is very disheartening, because the lives and future of innocent learners are compromised by the attitudes of these few untouchable delinquents. Teachers and staff members try their level best to counsel these learners, but their efforts are in vain.

I urge fellow educators to be patient and understanding when dealing with learners, in the hope that one day they will become responsible adults, who may yet come out and say: “I’ve seen a few teachers, but you are still the best teacher that I have seen.” I equally urge the ministry of education to revisit their policies and adapt them to fit our situation. The practice of pouring new wine into an old bottle is not working.

In conclusion, I want to reiterate that love is the flipside of power and the two are inevitably inseparable!

* Nikolaus Katombera is a mathematics teacher at Eheke SS and a postgraduate student in management, leadership and policy studies at UNAM.

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