The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture Sanet Steenkamp revealed that until the scarcity of teachers in Namibia is met, relief teachers are the alternative to ensure quality education.
Speaking to The Villager, Steenkamp said relief teachers are a good asset for the education sector, especially at this time when the fraternity is in dire need of teachers.
“Relief teachers are employed by schools to fill classroom vacancies on a short-term basis, which must stretch to a maximum of three months, where they will take on classroom teaching duties,” she explained.
She added that a school decides to hire a relief teacher if they are short on staff, or if someone is on leave.
Steenkamp said besides meeting a school’s temporary manpower shortfall, using relief teachers provides an avenue for individuals - who are interested in developing a challenging and satisfying career in the education sector, but are unsure of their own suitability to be a teacher - to experience what it is like.
There are permanent teachers, substitute teachers and then the relief teachers. Substitute teachers are appointed through the ministry, and are usually persons who are studying for another profession at higher institutions.
“I have seen that from most schools I have visited, the people who are more enthusiastic are substitute teachers. This could be because they want to work for their money, and they also want to prove themselves,” she noted.
Although they prove themselves through many ways, the ministry will not be able to hire a substitute permanently, unless they further their studies and get an education certificate, Steenkamp said.
“We are really faced with a lack of qualified teaching staff, and therefore substitute teachers help in many ways.
We don’t have enough teachers who can teach English and indigenous languages, as well as Life Skills’ teachers. In moments where we need more staff in those fields, we recruit substitute teachers,” she continued.
Due to the increase in the number of school-going children every year, Steenkamp says it is important that the education sector keeps up with the masses.
“Seeing the demand for teaching staff, we should not forget our mission of ensuring quality education for the Namibian child”, she said, adding that both relief and substitute teachers must be inducted before they start working.
“We should ensure that with every training which a permanent teacher gets, substitute and relief teachers are included. This way, they also get the knowledge and experience they need”, she said.
Steenkamp said the lack of teaching staff is an issue which will take time to overcome, and that the ministry will take it step by step.