First Master's degree in English for Namibia



Namibians wishing to study English at Master’s level will no longer need to go abroad after the University of Namibia launched a Master of Arts degree in English. 

This will be the first time that this English degree will be offered in Namibia.

The University’s Senate recently unanimously approved the programme. 

The first intake of students will be in January 2012, according to Professor Jairos Kangira, who led the development of the programme, which will be offered by the Department of Language and Literature Studies in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Prof Kingo Mchombu was upbeat when approached for comment.

“This programme will go a long way in improving the English language proficiency in Namibia which currently is officially acknowledged as low. The recent launch of the English Language proficiency programme for teachers by the Ministry of Education is a clear testimony of the grave concern by authorities and the need for improvement in the standards of English,” Mchombu said. 

He congratulated all those who worked hard to develop the programme.

Kangira, who heads the Department of Language and Literature Studies and is also the technical advisor of the ELLP (English Language Proficiency Programme) at Unam, said they considered the Ministry of Education’s concern about the low standard of English in developing this new programme.

This month the Ministry of Education ordered all teachers and heads of schools in the country to write an English Proficiency Test. 

The results are still pending. However, well-placed sources said that once the results are out, the teachers would be graded accordingly and those who performed poorly will undergo a training programme to uplift their standards of English.

Experts have blamed successive colonial regimes in Namibia for downplaying the importance of English and say this has negatively affected generations. 

As things stand, there are reports that some teachers – especially in the rural areas – teach English and other subjects in local languages. 

There are also reports of some learners being introduced to studying in English late in their teens, by which time their English language mistakes would have fossilised and difficult to correct. 

The purpose of this qualification is to provide students with advanced knowledge and skills that will make them more proficient users of the English language in a variety of contexts. 

The Master’s of Arts in English Studies (MAES) offers students an opportunity to broaden their knowledge in the fields of English language and literature, not only through engaging in an in-depth study of linguistic theory and literary theory, but also by taking part in learning activities that involve the practical use of the English language in a variety of contexts. 

The programme provides students with advanced competencies in English Studies so that they can compete well with other professionals in the same field regionally and internationally. This programme further develops students’ cognitive and intellectual skills thereby enabling them to think critically and use the English language effectively and appropriately in a variety of situations. Holders of this qualification will be able to work in a wide range of English language-related professions.

Kangira said upon completion of the study, holders of this qualification would be able to “evaluate situations that require cross-cultural understanding and operate accordingly; compose texts of various types using advanced English and styles gained from this programme; apply creativity, critical thinking, analytical skills and decision-making ability at the workplace; and to apply English linguistic knowledge gained in this degree to edit and translate documents written in English.” 

For benchmarking purposes, selected regional and international universities were consulted. Experts in English Language and Literature were asked to review the Master of Arts in English degree programme. 

“We received favourable comments illustrating that our programme is generally in line with what obtains elsewhere, regionally and internationally. Some of the suggestions made by the experts were incorporated into the programme.”

This qualification serves as an entry point to the Doctor of Philosophy in English. 

The programme will be offered through full-time or part time (face to face) modes. 

“This is not a thesis-only degree programme but will be offered through the distance teaching and learning mode in future after the development of study materials.”

The minimum period of registration is two years for full-time and part-time students. Full-time candidates should complete their studies within three calendar years, while part-time candidates will be allowed up to five calendar years to complete their studies. 

An extension of the registration period of up to six months beyond the stipulated deadlines may be granted by relevant committees if valid reasons are advanced.

The Master of Arts in English Studies degree programme targets students who want to extend their intellectual horizons in English immediately after their BA Honours degree with a major in English (or an equivalent qualification), and individuals who are already employed and want to develop their careers.