The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture has introduced measures to help elevate unqualified and underqualified teachers currently on its books to start with tailor-made in-service training to help them upgrade their credentials.
Although the ministry will treat the in-service teacher training diploma programme as a special project and will avail the necessary funding for its implementation, the University of Namibia will develop and implement it in order to address the shortage of qualified teachers at junior primary level.
The Education Management Information System (EMIS) statistics for 2012 indicate that Namibia has about 24 660 teachers, of whom 1 208 are without teacher training and about 3 000 are underqualified.
The same report shows Kavango East and Kavango West being the most affected regions with 2 876 teachers of whom 210 are unqualified and 104 underqualified.
According to the latest United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics projections on the demand for primary teachers, to reach universal primary education by 2015 a total of 3 882 new primary school teachers need to be recruited in Namibia, which is approximately 30 percent of the 2010 teaching force.
UNESCO feels that addressing the shortage of qualified teachers requires a multi-pronged approach where teacher education institutions play a critical role in preparing teachers through both pre-service and in-service training.
The UNESCO Institute for Statistics says at least two million new teaching positions are needed worldwide to ensure universal primary education by 2015.
According to a United Nations report “the situation at Namibian independence was that 36 percent of the nation’s 13 000 teachers had no professional training.”
Ten years later, the government reported improvement, with about 15 percent of the nation’s teachers lacking formal teacher training. One glaring problem, however, is the distribution of qualified teachers around the country. In 2001, the Kavango region, for example, reported that over 30 percent of its teaching staff were unqualified.
The Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, who on Monday launched the vacation school for un- and underqualified teachers said Namibia made great strides immediately after independence, with vigorous training of teachers in improving teacher qualifications.
However, she said, the situation became worse following the phasing out of the Basic Education Teacher Diploma programme, which saw the number of qualified teachers decline due to, among others, the unavailability of in-service opportunities for such teachers, especially for the junior primary phase.
The vacation school marks the start of the implementation process of the Diploma in Junior Primary Education programme – targeting teachers who are currently serving at the pre- and junior primary phases, but do not meet the requirements of professionally qualified teachers.
In relation to this, she said, the analysis of the vacant teaching posts for 2013 and 2014 indicated that the majority of the un- and underqualified teachers are deployed at the junior primary phase (pre-school to Grade 3).
She emphasized the importance of early years of learning at junior primary phase, saying it constitutes a key stage in one’s education.
“These years lay the foundation upon which the later years, or subsequent years, are built. If learners do not learn properly during these formative years, chances are high that they will struggle in their learning in the following grades,” the minister noted.