Vision schools: GovernmentÔÇÖs blurred vision
Throughout the history of the colonisation of Africa and indeed any other Third World country, education was used a tool of alienating the people from themselves.
Hordes of Aboriginal children were separated from their families and communities in the name of education.
Today education and not civilisation is being pushed ahead further alienating the people from themselves.
The Namibian government has also hitched onto this band-wagon by creating elite schools at high costs.
One such school, Rukonga Vision School was inaugurated by President Hifikepunye Pohamba last week.
Rukonga Vision School, in Mukwe Constituency 200km east of Rundu, is one of six such projects lined-up for construction as part of Namibia’s Vision 2030.
The schools have been earmarked for selected rural areas and the Ministry of Education (MoE) says such schools under the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme (ETSIP) are meant to address access to education, quality and equity.
MoE further says vision schools will cater for gifted children from previously disadvantaged children.
Rukonga Vision School that cost N$109m to build currently has 240 Grade 8 and 11 learners as well as 18 teachers.
These children, according to MoE, will be the torchbearers of excellence because entry is based on academic performance. “The aim is to attract learners who demonstrate hard work and a high degree of academic aptitude, with a focus on those from rural areas and previously disadvantaged backgrounds,” Pohamba said in his inauguration speech.
The idea of vision schools is a brilliant one if undertaken by private organisations. Once Government takes such an idea up, it perpetuates segregation and inequality in the way it uses its resources for all the children.
While the Namibian Constitution is not clear on what happens after the free primary education, the State still has an obligation to treat every child equally and offer them equal opportunities regardless of who they are and what they can do because every child when given a chance can rise to the occasion.
The idea that such schools will cater for the previously disadvantaged children is surprising considering that Namibia has been independent for more than 20 years now.
Just how Government defines ‘previously disadvantaged’ is not clear because as it is, one can safely say that 90% of Namibia’s population is still disadvantaged.
Living or attending school in a rural area does not mean a child is disadvantaged because even those in some towns cannot afford decent schools. In Havana Informal settlement for example, not so long ago, some children used tents as classrooms. There are also vast examples of learners who still use thatch and pole structures as classrooms.
A while ago, the nation was shocked to read about a hostel where both boys and girls share space. They sleep like prisoners on the floor because the school cannot afford beds.
These are disadvantaged children who need the State’s money in getting a decent education regardless of where they come from and what they can or cannot do.
It’s also profoundly disturbing that the Government is pursuing separate development which can also be seen as some form of segregation or apartheid where learners where classified according to their skin colour.
Only that this time, Government is using the ‘previously disadvantaged and academically able’ tags as reasons for justifying discrimination in the way it uses resources.
In the end, there will be schools for the dull or dunderheads as well as schools for the bright ones who will be ‘torchbearers’. Once the education system creates such definitions, the whole society too will be divided along the lines of ‘torchbearers’ and ‘non-torchbearers’.
In short, one can conclude that the society will be made up of the chosen ones and the discarded ones.
It’s not clear what kind of a person Namibia wants to create for Vision 2030, but honestly ear-marking learners by way of giving others the best the State can offer while throwing left-overs to others does not augur well in a country whose history is replete with examples of discrimination and segregation.
Education must be for all and not a chosen few even when those chosen few are said to be bright children. In any case, how can a father discriminate his children on the basis of their abilities?
Those who have read George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm will attest to how leaders can ‘cleverly’ shift the winning lines in order to get away with injustices.
Although the Constitution is not explicit on after-primary-school scenario, the whole struggle for a just society was based on total equality based on resource distribution. Now with the Rukonga Vision School gobbling up N$109m, the reason for the struggle is defeated especially that there are still schools in the country that need resources and are under-funded.
If the learners stuck in those under-funded schools grow up to know that they were not catered for because they are incapable, how will they feel like as citizens of Namibia?
The idea of vision schools would have been tasty had Government embarked on it after providing quality education to all; after making sure that there are no tent schools in Namibia; after clearing all the back-log in infrastructure provisions for every child to attend school comfortably.
Educationists will talk about how environment nurtures education just like how a comfortable bed will make one sleep peacefully.
There is no way a child can learn and prove their full abilities if they sleep in a heap on the floor of a hostel; or when they are clamped in a small thatched classroom.
While having visions is a good thing, this time Government’s vision is blurred.