Windhoek-Namibia National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) leadership has come out strongly against the merger of colleges of education with the University of Namibia (Unam), saying it has contributed to the shortage of primary school teachers in Namibia.
Nantu joins other critics of the merger such as Deputy Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Samuel Ankama, who earlier this month also said it was wrong to merge the colleges of education with Unam.
Equally, when the Minister of Education, Arts and Culture Katrina Hanse-Himarwa took over the reins of the ministry, she received a lot of criticism when she pronounced that government made a mistake by abolishing colleges of education across the country and incorporated them with Unam.
Hanse-Himarwa asserted that it was a mistake to incorporate the colleges into Unam during her budget contribution to the education ministry and she vowed to fight to bring back the colleges.
“We made a mistake to do away with teachers’ training colleges … they must be addressed and restored. I stand for the reintroduction of BETD because it has provided us with good teachers,” she said at the time.
The Basic Education Teaching Diploma (BETD) was phased out in 2012 and BETD holders were instructed to upgrade to a Bachelor Education degree.
The action led to many prospective teachers not meeting the cut due to Unam’s new stringent admission requirements at a time when Namibia faces a pressing need to recruit more qualified teachers in schools.
Schools and regional education directorates are left with no option but to recruit unqualified teachers on a temporary basis to fill the high demand for teachers, which contributes to over-expenditure due to the payment of separation perks to these temporary teachers.
Nantu secretary general, Basilius Haingura, yesterday said despite the financial crisis the country is experiencing, the union doubts that Unam has produced the required number of teachers for the country’s education system.
Haingura said there should be coordination between the education ministry and Unam to determine and manage the training needs of the education system through a functional teacher demand and supply model.
“A functional teacher demand and supply, in Nantu’s view, is long overdue. The model among others will enhance the manner in which the ministry should address and manage teacher and learner ratios in the classroom and supply and deployment of teachers,” he said.
Nantu feels the inability of the government to employ qualified teachers while the country has overcrowded classrooms leads to the compromising of the quality of teaching and learning in schools. Therefore, Nantu has argued the ministry, through the regional directorates of education, to conduct credible human resource audits with a view to establish whether teachers are properly and currently placed in the education system, according to their qualifications and expectations.
“Through this exercise, we will know on the basis of accurate evidence whether the country still needs teachers in various subjects and the number of teachers needed for the system,” he suggested. Over 500 qualified teachers, who are roaming the streets without jobs, are demanding that the government remove all the unqualified teachers in public schools with immediate effect so that they can occupy those positions. The qualified but unemployed teachers also demand that the government, through respective regions, conduct a survey to establish which schools have unqualified teachers and remove them “as soon as possible from those posts and call in qualified ones”.
The unemployed graduates from the University of Namibia last month wrote a letter to the education ministry’s permanent secretary, Sanet Steenkamp, expressing their dismay that unqualified teachers occupy teaching posts at their expense. Initially, the government was concerned about the shortage of teachers when it introduced in-service training at Unam and awarded a five-year contract to unqualified teachers. In this regard, Nantu said it is not advisable that those who have graduated demand that the ministry should terminate the contract of employment of these unqualified teachers and instead recruit the recently graduated qualified teachers.
Close to 1,000 practising junior primary teachers are enrolled in the programme, with the same number again to be enrolled each year over the next three years.