Prof Grynberg: A judgment passed too early


Being a graduate of the University of Namibia (Unam), allow me to respond to one disturbing article in one of the country’s daily newspapers, The Namibian, by one Professor Roman Grynberg on May 6, 2016 titled “Sir, What is an Average?”, a simple question that did not deserve a smear campaign over an institute, Unam.
Indeed, if the old adage remains true that, “No question is a stupid question, but a stupid answer”, then Namibian institutes of higher learning must be wary with so-called “expatriates” who should be employed to disseminate knowledge only to make a mockery of our learners and education system; certainly, a backward approach that does a disservice to learning, so is undermining learner’s confidence.
Having a teaching background, I was caught by surprise seeing a professor running to the media to expose one of his learners after a second class of teaching. One wonders, did the lecturer even make time to get to know his students, so is their educational background?
Given what Grynberg had written about his somber experience, this is what I could deduce: Prof. Grynberg failed to tell the whole story – leaving a lot of holes in his somehow shocking experience. For example, has he seen any discrepancies with the mathematics curriculum in secondary schools in Namibia?
And for the student in question, what level of mathematics did the “young lady” complete before coming to university? What is the admission requirement for Business Mathematics? Could there have been some communication barrier between Grynberg and the student, for example pronunciation of words, etc.?
Or is Grynberg writing in bad light of the department to secure his job, so is trying to “import” some of his mathematics “buddies” from abroad?
On the other hand, even though a subject is compulsory, are students prepared for such a class, based on their mathematics background? Is the University of Namibia having bridging courses for students that have limited knowledge in a specific subject area? If not, those are what would transform the quality of education for the better, not cheap propaganda.
If I may mention, bridging courses are a common phenomenon in many universities, especially in the western world, so are centres of academic learning, where students can get extra-help in English, Mathematics, Biology, etc.
For anyone whose concentration of studies could have been in a different area, would asking, “What is an average?” be tantamount to stupidity and ignorance, or what? Isn’t it the equivalence of expecting everyone to know the body parts of a locust, or what is an accounting equation – forgetting that some acquired knowledge, even very basic, fades with time?
Did Grynberg forget of all those thousands of educated Europeans that think Africa is a country? Are those economies falling apart? Should African expatriates be sent there to go and teach geography? His kind won’t see that angle!
Surely, from much of the above, that is what any educator would be looking at rather than trying to humiliate thousands of students with a single encounter. The department concerned should be pro-active in trying to empower and uplift the quality of training for the students rather than lowering the university standards, because one would then conclude that a Business Mathematics subject at Unam is the equivalent of a Grade 8 or 9 in mathematics, which is pathetic!
And worst of all, Grynberg’s misplaced assessment of an entire education system in Namibia based on only one bad experience speaks volume. So self-righteous!
For those that want to criticise the system, the likes of Grynberg must first study the education system in the country, especially in their areas of expertise, before passing judgment. Instead of playing with rhetoric as politicians do, experts should use the media in pinpointing what the problem is and what should be done about it.
Now, if an institute like Unam had been sitting on a problem of that magnitude, why wasn’t anything done about it? With Unam’s graduates, should the nation believe that a new crop of scholars is ready to serve the nation, or should people be cautious after reading such damning comments from people who have hardly warmed their seats up?
Lastly, the idea of generalising a problem without taking time to understand it can lead to unnecessary tension, so should Unam be responsible for the final product, its graduates!


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