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Poverty, Covid-19, HIV/AIDS Have Disrupted Our Education System – Education Minister

By: Hilma Tukondjene

Education minister Anna Nghipondoka says global challenges such as HIV/ AIDS and the Covid-19 pandemic have directly affected Namibia and its basic education system, leaving many children orphaned.

She said this resulted in child-headed families, school dropouts due to lack of parental support, teenage pregnancies, and high failure rates.

Her comments come a week after President Hage Geingob said that the Namibian school curriculum does not prepare students for the job market, which is why the country is experiencing a high unemployment rate.

Nghipondoka, however, argued that Covid-19 had a direct disruptive effect on teaching and learning when schools had to close, curriculum rationalised, and school attendance time reduced due to rotational school attendance.

She said this during the official opening of the nation’s conference on education, which kicked off in Windhoek on Tuesday.

“The global challenges are connected to the process of globalisation which could have both positive and negative effects on the global players which are otherwise sovereign countries.”

She further said there is food scarcity resulting from drought caused by climate change which has been experienced for many years and has harmed food security resulting in stunting and hunger-related diseases.

“This, directly and indirectly, affects children’s capacity to learn effectively. There is running water scarcity at many of our schools, which also negatively affects health and hygiene, especially in our far rural schools.”

She also argued that poverty and socio-economic inequality is also experienced in Namibia and has put a strain on the education system to provide educational services equally and equitably to all children.

“Parents of different socio-economic statuses contribute differently to the education of their children, which creates a big gap in terms of how schools are resourced and what support parents offer to schools, in addition to government grants.”

According to the World Bank, 1,6 million people in Namibia live in poverty.

The education minister argued that poverty and high unemployment in some parts of the country give rise to urbanisation, which results in overpopulation in urban schools. As a result of urbanisation, she said schools in urban settings find it difficult to accommodate all children requiring admission, resulting in overcrowded classrooms with resultant poor quality of teaching and learning.

Nghipondoka, earlier this year, said that the ministry required around N$2,5 billion to build 4 479 classrooms in the country.

She added that to cope when challenges strike, the country needs human and material resources to facilitate the process of coping, continued education and the ability to recover.

“Teachers equipped well with the subject content and, especially ICT skills to enable education to continue in different modes of learning including eLearning is an urgency,” said the minister.

She also said, similarly important is the “need for connectivity at all schools, data and improved bandwidth as well as basic education facilities like enough classrooms, enough hostels, teachers and support staff houses.

This comes as Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran) chief executive officer Emilia Nghikembua, last month, revealed that only 500 out of 1,800 public schools in the country have access to basic technological infrastructure, while no funds have been allocated to roll these out.

Meanwhile, President Hage Geingob said that the national consultations on the Conference on Education have unearthed some key levers on how they could transform education in a Namibian context.

“Financial accountability and management should be reinforced at all levels of the education sector to ensure efficient utilisation of these resources. Having achieved high levels of access, to ensure quality education, a framework for parental and community resource mobilisation should be developed.”

Namibia is ranked 117th among 157 countries on the Human Capital Index. Geingob said this must be improved.

“Education plays a large role in the Human Capital Index assessment, both in terms of enrolment and retention in school, in addition to early grade literacy/numeracy. It has improved well from 2010 to 2017 (with the harmonised test scores moving from 371 to 407, and at the same time, the Human Capital Index score improved from 0.39 to 0.45, whereas the world median stands at 0.57. The net enrolment rate in 2010 stood at 96.9 per cent at junior primary and 49.8 per cent at senior secondary, while in 2015, these reached 100 per cent and 61.1 per cent, respectively. The region also has an alarmingly high number of children with no internet access. According to a recent UNICEF report, 9 in 10 children lack internet access at home.”

According to the World Bank, government spending on education as per cent of GDP in Namibia was reported at 9.6 per cent in 2021, which is higher than most countries in the region, but a slight decrease by 0.5 per cent in budget allocation by the education ministry has been observed for the 2022 school year compared to 2021.

Julia Heita

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