Apart from the population growth, the abolition of compulsory school fees in public schools has also increased the demand for space in schools.
This follows a Cabinet Directive in 2013 for the abolition of compulsory contributions to the school development fund in all public schools, in terms of the Education Act of 2001.
In an interview with New Era yesterday, Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture spokesperson Johanna Absalom revealed that to date they enrolled 83 773 learners for Grade 1 countrywide.
The education ministry attributed the increase to the introduction of free primary education in public schools. In 2015 the ministry enrolled 80 482 Grade 1 learners compared to 76 444 in 2014.
Asked how many public primary schools exist countrywide and whether they are adequate to accommodate the ever-increasing number of learners, Absalom said the ministry oversees 1 796 schools in total, including private schools.
She said infrastructure development remains a priority for the ministry. In addition to the upgrades to the existing schools, she added, the ministry also plans on constructing a number of new schools over the next five years.
Some of the planned new schools include two to be built in //Karas, two in Erongo, one in the Hardap and two others in the Kavango East. The ministry also plans to build an extra school in Kavango West, four in Khomas, and one each in the Kunene and Omusati regions.
Ohangwena and Omaheke are not included in the planned activities. Other schools in the pipeline include one each for Oshana and Oshikoto, while Otjozondjupa and Zambezi will get an additional two in each region.
She noted the planned schools are not inclusive of the addition of new classrooms to existing schools.
Asked whether the ministry has made enough provision to ensure all learners will be accommodated to avoid the situation of previous years where learners end up not finding places, Absalom said the ministry, through the directorates of education, arts and culture has put mechanisms in place for the enrollment of learners, mainly for the entry grades.
“As part of the ministry’s pro-active effort to enroll learners and ensure teaching place the next year, the application process for admission takes place in June and July. Therefore, by the end of July or the beginning of August, schools have already determined whether there is space available or not.
“Thereafter principals inform parents or guardians in August in writing of their success or failure to secure a place. Parents or guardians are then required to confirm acceptance of admission of their child,” she noted.
She said there is still provision for unsuccessful learners to apply for places, saying each regional directorate of education, arts and culture has modalities in place to ensure that learners get placed ahead of the 2017 school year.
“It should be noted that these learners will be placed at any school that still has space available. We urge parents and guardians to contact the directorate of education, arts and culture in their respective regions.
“The ministry head office, the regional directorates and schools are also spearheading the awareness campaigns that can contribute to the effectiveness and successful admission of learners for 2017,” she stated.
Presently, she said, the regional admission committees are active and are facilitating the admission of learners in their respective regions. They also provide constant feedback to the permanent secretary on progress and problems encountered, if any.
In addition, Absalom said, all regions have effective admission committees to ensure that no child or parent is charged any obligatory contribution.
According to her, the movement of parents from one place to another, especially to cities and towns, is influenced by a number of factors, including employment opportunities and relocation early in the year greatly impacts on the demand for school places. She said some parents relocate to Windhoek specifically because they have the perception that the quality of education in urban areas is better and more advanced.
“This development is not only true for Windhoek, but also other urban centres countrywide. As such, parents prefer enrolling their children at schools in the urban areas. Hence, the ministry’s plea for parents to constantly engage with the regional directorates regarding possible placement,” she advised.