Ministry defends today’s abrupt schools closure

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WINDHOEK, 05 July 2016 - The Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture Sanet Steenkamp shares her excitement when the Ohlthaver and List Group handed over of two container classrooms to the Monte Christo Project Primary School in Havana. (Photo by: Esme Konstantinus) NAMPA

Albertina Nakale
Windhoek

The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture was at pains yesterday to explain that “administrative reasons” motivated its abrupt decision to close schools today, when some learners had still had examinations scheduled for next week.

The deviation from the school calendar to close schools three days earlier than scheduled caught the country by surprise, with some parents fuming at the decision, as their children were still due to write exams next week.

The ministry’s permanent secretary, Sanet Steekamp, says no learner will miss their examinations, as some were rescheduled to today, while others are pushed to next semester. The ministry did not say what the administrative reasons for its decision are.
“It should be noted that this early closure does not affect teaching and learning, because the last day of school for learners was expected to be on 26 April and 28 April for teachers. This translates into schools closing three days earlier than envisaged,” she said.

Her assurance follows a wave of uncertainty from learners and parents regarding the ministry’s directive on the closure of schools and hostels for this term a few days earlier than planned in the school calendar.

In the Khomas Region learners who were expected to take their English and Afrikaans listening and writing comprehension tests on Wednesday and Thursday next week, respectively, are affected. The directive came as a surprise to many, as it was only issued on Tuesday, leaving learners and parents with more questions than answers.

The ministerial directive informed all regions to close schools and hostels and release all learners today. It also states that if there are any schools that had scheduled examinations and end-of-term tests for next week, these schools are advised to adjust their timetables to ensure all examinations and end-of-term tests are written by today.

It stated that the deviation from the school calendar is only applicable to learners and that staffers must still show up at work, as per the school and hostel calendar.
It also advised staff members to use this time to finalise outstanding administrative tasks and to prepare for the re-opening of schools for the second term.
A concerned guardian, who declined to be named, said they are uncertain as to what to do, given that her sister – who is Grade 11 at Jan Mohr High School – was due to sit for Afrikaans exams on Wednesday next week.

“Afrikaans [test] at Jan Mohr is cancelled, so what sort of report for the term are we getting? What does this say about the quality of our education? This is bad,” she fumed.
New Era has it on good authority that the English and Afrikaans listening and writing comprehension tests were also abruptly cancelled yesterday.

Some Grade 8 and 9 learners confided in New Era that Jan Mohr High School Principal Clemens Kloppers had informed them yesterday that exams for next week are cancelled, without specifying when they would sit for those exams.

The principal, however, told New Era that all pending exams are to be written today. “All our exams will be done tomorrow (Friday). Next week, we will only have two papers (English and Afrikaans) listening comprehension for continuous assessment, but it’s for next term. Next term is loaded. It’s a short term and very crucial. We are easing the burden of teachers,” he explained.

It remains largely unexplained though why learners would sit for this semester’s exams next semester. In turn, Steenkamp said no learner would be disadvantaged, as prior arrangements were made with all regions.

Asked what will happen to learners who were scheduled to write exams next week, she said the subjects are promotional and do not require intense studying. The subjects, she said, include Afrikaans and English listening and writing comprehension.

“No child will be disadvantaged. It’s comprehension. There’s no big crisis, because we have consulted and we made a decision based on feedback we received from the regions. It’s also based on the fact that it can be re-scheduled, as it’s not a learning subject. It’s a promotional subject. It’s the application of critical and analytical thinking,” she reasoned.

For those affected by floods, especially in Zambezi, Oshana, Omusati and Ohangwena, she said, schools would continue unhindered to finalise their exams. She added that schools that have remedial programmes in place to improve results will also continue unobstructed.

Steenkamp further said schools are not writing exams in April, instead are writing mastery tests, whereby teachers test learners’ competency, understanding and assess what they had learned over the preceding three months.
“There’s no need for parents to panic. We have consulted all regional directors. In terms of Khomas, the exams were scheduled to finish on Friday (today).

“The only exams that were carried over in Khomas were to keep learners constructively engaged while they remain at school. But we are saying we revisited our calendar… there is no need for learners to return to school on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” she explained.

She further said in the past some schools experienced a lot of vandalism and ill discipline when learners were allowed to stay at school after they were done with their exams and noted that if learners are negatively affected in any way, the schools should consult their regional directors to make the necessary provisions.

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