Windhoek – National Assembly Speaker Professor Peter Katjavivi has informed the global stage that although Namibia has made positive strides in the education sector since taking over the running and administration of the country in 1990, there are some inherited challenges.
Katjavivi, who was speaking at the Forum of the Commonwealth Council on Education in the United Kingdom recently, stressed that just like many countries, Namibia needs to strengthen student preparation in secondary schools in basic science subjects, mathematics and English.
In Namibia’s case the need comes from a deficit inherited at the time of independence, and addressing this is an ongoing challenge 26 years after the country attained its independence.
Katjavivi noted that secondary schools are still faced with the challenge of recognising and responding to the growing diversity of learning abilities, in order to expand the student base that will enter higher education.
Before independence, Namibia’s education system was designed to reinforce the apartheid system rather than provide the necessary human resource base to promote equitable social and economic development, noted Katjavivi.
“It was fragmented along racial and ethnic lines, in what was termed the Bantu Education System, which was also being enforced in black communities in South Africa, with vast disparities in both the allocation of resources and the quality of education offered. This had a great impact on the quality of education in the country,” explained Katjavivi.
According to the politician, it was only after independence that the new government set about to create one unified structure for education administration, from the previous eleven fragmented and ethnically based departments.
In this regard, English replaced Afrikaans as the nation’s official language and was chosen as the medium of instruction in schools and other educational institutions while a learner-centered curriculum for Grades 1 to 12 was developed and introduced.
“The Constitution directs the government to provide free primary education and this was introduced across the country, and encouraged higher enrolment of learners. Parents were no longer charged for tuition, or books,” he said.
“However, families must pay fees for uniforms, stationery and hostel accommodation for boarders. Moreover, school boards were allowed to charge parents fixed amounts for their school development funds, which were used to supplement government allocations and cover some maintenance, improvements, and special projects,” he said.
“These were perceived as school fees, and were an obstacle for the poorest families, so they were abolished at primary level in 2013 and at secondary level this year, 2016,” further stated Katjavivi.
The Namibia government now allocates more than 20 percent of the national budget to education, which represents six to seven percent of the GDP.
This makes Namibia one of the three countries with the highest percentage of GDP directed towards education in the world.
“Today, as a result of this investment, there are a total of 1 723 schools, of which 1 604 are government schools and 119 are private schools,” further narrated the Speaker.
Katjavivi continued: “However, there is still a shortage of schools, particularly in rural areas, as well as a need for more classrooms in existing schools, and for more and improved hostel accommodation for boarders. The vast size of the country makes provision of schools for all communities a technical and financial challenge.”