SPYL voices in

In the run-up to the country’s first ever education conference, the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) Secretary for Education Natangue Ithete warns against changing the school calendar insisting that other options should be considered.

Asked to give his opinions on the issue of making changes to the Namibian school calendar because of annual floods that have been affecting some schools in northern and central Namibia resulting in their temporary closure, Ithete says the SPYL do not condone the idea.

According to Ithete, changing the school calendar will only bring confusion in the education sector as it will affect tertiary institutions such as University of Namibia (Unam) and the Polytechnic’s calendars that start in February.

He says although the SPYL sympathises with learners who could not attend classes because of floods that affected their schools, it would not want to see the school calendar changed as it will have a lot of implications for many education stakeholders.

“For example, Namibians are used to Grade 12 results being released between December and late January in the run-up to the start of tertiary institutions’ calendars in both Namibia and South Africa. What will happen to this arrangement if we change the calendar, and do we have enough resources to implement all the necessary changes?”

Ithete says changing the calendar will be a costly exercise and he suggests that Government should consider options such as school relocations, building of bridges and acquisition of small boats to transport learners crossing flooded Oshanas.

He says that the main reason why the SPYL would not support the idea of changing the school calendar because of floods that have become an annual problem, is based on the notion that schools should not be seasonal institutions and learners should be able to access their schools throughout the year.

“What we want to see is proper planning when it comes to the construction of new schools so that our learners can access these schools anytime of the year. We do not want schools to be closed during some seasons and opened during other seasons at the expense of learners.”

Meanwhile, Ithete strongly defends the Namibian education system saying that for the past 21 years, it has managed to produce some of the best qualified human resources that are actively engaged in the development of the country and it cannot be compared to the colonial Bantu system that existed before Namibia’s independence.

He argues that those who have described the system as a failure are ignorant of the fact that Government has been committed to improving the education level of its people and has gone as far as establishing Unam and Polytechnic.

“On top of that, Government has recently established a medical school which is one of the best medical institutions in Africa. What we want to see is the public coming up with positive criticism to help Government improve and not always to be negative.”

On the issue of the Grade 10 dropouts, Ithete says since 2007 the SPYL has issued a resolution calling on Government to allow learners to repeat. However, he says the youth league’s resolution should not be confused with those calling for the abolishment of the Namibia College of Open Learning (Namcol).

“We are not calling for Namcol to be abolished at all. Namcol is a brilliant institution that allows students who have failed one or two subjects to improve their subjects without necessarily having to attend formal classes.”

He says the youth league would like to see the Ministry of Education allowing learners to repeat Grade 10 within the formal education on voluntary basis particularly those who have failed most of their subjects and cannot improve their points at Namcol.

Earlier this year, the Minister of Education Dr Abraham Iyambo announced the voluntary re-admission to Grade 10 of more than 7000 pupils who obtained 14 to19 points in their best six subjects.

Ithete commends the Minister for this gesture and calls on the participants in the upcoming education conference to consider the youth league resolution and deliberate on the way forward with regard to finding a lasting solution to the Grade 10 failure issue.

Among the challenges facing the education sector, Ithete notes that the youth league is concerned with the inadequate accommodation facilities facing both teachers and students. He says the youth league will continue calling on Government to provide accommodation for teachers particularly those in rural areas as well as for students.

“One of the main reasons why qualified teachers are unwilling to teach deep in rural areas is because of lack of accommodation facilities for teachers. There is need to come up with incentives that will entice qualified teachers to go and teach in rural schools.”

The same accommodation problem is faced by students at tertiary institutions who come from rural areas and some do not even have relatives to house them and are then forced to rent rooms which are increasingly becoming expensive.

Ithete notes that there is no law that regulates how much landlords should charge tenants and renting has become a lucrative business with landlords charging students amounts between N$ 800 to N$ 3000 a month.

He calls on the government to come up with a law to regulate how much landlords should charge tenants just as oil prices are regulated.

“Such a law will be in the interests of students. However, we do not condone the idea of students renting and tertiary institutions should make provisions to increase their accommodation capacities to accommodate their students.”

Ithete also wants the government to provide free tertiary education to alleviate the challenges faced by the parents.

He says most students at Namibian tertiary institutions are from previously disadvantaged communities and their parents cannot afford to pay their studies.

The parents have to sacrifice a lot in order to have their children get education and some even go as far as borrowing money from their neighbours and relatives which gets them into debts.
Ithete concludes by urging participants in the education conference to come up with ideas on how to strengthen as well as improve the overall education sector with the intention to bring better results. PF