Confidential Notes

For years, the Namibian education system has been at the receiving end of condemnation, insults and mockery. And there have been different reasons given to the alleged poor state of education in the country.

Most notably, the consecutive failure by Grade 10 pupils throughout Namibia for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009 raised much concern – with various sectors trying to pin-point the root of the problem. Some noted it was the lack of coherence in our education system, while others said the resources (both in terms of teaching staff and infrastructure) were far from being adequate, especially among the peri-urban and rural communities.

Some would argue that the education system has failed. Others would argue that the government is not doing enough. Even worse, prophets of doom would suggest that all the previous Ministers failed where it mattered most - delivery.

It may be true that the failure rate is high, but a lot of money has been pumped into education by the government over the years.

It has become a trend that the Ministry of Education receives the biggest share of the budget, and it’s expected to continue, to N$6.47billion (that’s 22.4% of total spending), which is an increase of 20.5% on the amount allocated in last year’s budget.

State spending during the 2010-11 financial year is projected to increase by 14% on the previous year’s figures. Government plans to spend a total of N$28.8 billion in the 2010-11 financial year which runs till March next year.

More money may continue to be pumped into education and we can change as many Ministers as possible, but I now firmly believe that the foundation of education problems in Namibia “lies in the house”, and not “in the system.”

We believe that for an education system to function properly, it needs the involvement of parents, school authorities and the decision makers. Parents should become more involved in the education of their children by taking part in school boards and taking ownership of the day-to-day running of the institutions so that they can appreciate local education values.

It is a national joke that it has taken 20 years for the parents to realize that sending a child to school with a cell-phone affects the child’s development. That does not need government alone to wake up and see the error.

On the other hand, government should come up with an educational policy that meets the current needs of the majority of the people in Namibia. Pumping in funds and not making follow-up on how the funds are being spent or utilised in the education system could be one of the reasons why government backing in the education sector has not really made visible impact for all to see. Not that there have not been any achievements made thus far. Some tremendous milestones have been made, but more needs to be done.

The problem is now in the mindset of the people in the system. How does one explain a situation where most of the country’s top schools, all the affluent ones, send their children to Stellenbosch, to UCT, to the technikons in South Africa for education?

More than three Ministers of Education - all high profile cadres have passed through that office. The education system went through the hands of the current Prime Minister, Nahas Angula, who was the first Minister of Education, then the current Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and former teacher John Mutorwa. The highly respected Nangolo Mbumba made his mark during the last term and now, it is the vibrant Dr Abraham Iyambo. One may ask therefore – what has really gone wrong when there have been some highly capable people at the helm of the ministry?

We even had a Ministry of Higher Education. Some feel that there is a new sense of energy towards the Ministry of Education now upon the appointment of Dr. Iyambo as “education messiah”. Are we, therefore, going to see changes both at primary and tertiary levels of the education system?

We are told that the Polytechnic will soon transform into a university. Yet, if local people do not have faith in the education system, will they be able to send their children to such institutions. It is my hope that Professor Tjama Tjivikua’s interview with Prime Focus will shift that mindset of comparing everything Namibian with inferiority.

With Prof Tjivikua’s international standing as an academic, I believe one day Namibia will wake up and remember the value of the river not only when it runs dry. PF