The Namibian education system is set to turn a new leaf in the next two years if changes being mooted by government are anything to go by.
The Villager has learned that in 2016, the government will be implementing changes to Namibia’s basic education curriculum, which will include an extra grade, new rules for children repeating grades, new technical subjects.
Hopes are now high that the changes will curb the hordes of problems that the current education system is filled with. These problems ranges, the prevailing lack of sufficient teachers and teaching material, the high dropout and failure rates, and the fact that many of the who pass grade 12, moves on to tertiary education level – still literally illiterate.
Minister of Education, Dr David Namwandi agrees that the issue does exist, and says that these problems can be traced to the foundation of their education. “Yes it is a problem; by the time many reach university they are not eloquent. What we see is that young people don’t like reading.”
To this end, plans are underway for the introduction of a new curriculum, which is set to improve learners’ English proficiency.
They don’t read
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) before children start primary school they should already be able to write their own name and be encouraged to read regularly at home once they have started grade 1. State primary school learners in Namibia begin reading in their first grade already, and should be able to read and write quite well at their level by the end of that grade.
The problem, according to UNESCO Secretary General Roderick April, is the influence technology has on children. “What we see is that they’re reading more on their cellphones.” He said, “In school when they write, they will sometimes add acronyms one uses in text messages.” Van Rhyn Primary School Principal  pointed out as well, that another issue is that parents stop supporting their children’s reading habits once they reach the age of 10 or 11.
How do we fix this?
Many factors influence how a child will learn, one of them being the teachers they have, who play an important role and can make a great difference in a child’s ability to absorb new information. Teacher’s Union of Namibia (TUN) president Mahongora Kavihuha says that more needs to be done to cultivate language skills in children and blamed children’s exposure to television at home for their lack of reading and school curriculums, which he says have no correlation between high school and university.
He also said change was needed with the way which children are taught, but says that teachers alone cannot do much as they are not given enough freedom from the government.“Teachers must be involved in crafting, developing and implementing change.” Kavihuha said, “We don’t want to be spectators or passive recipients of politics.”
To remedy the situation from the government’s side, Namwandi says that they are working 24/7 to enact change and instill the culture of reading in the Namibian youth. Two education centers, fully equipped with computers and audio-visual material will be opening this week, in the Ohangwena region and in Oshakati, with another one set to be opened in Otjozondjupa.
There is also the SADC Protocol on Education Training, which identifies areas of cooperation between countries in basic education, intermediate education and training, higher education and training, research and development, life-long education and publishing and library resources. Out of this Namwandi says the plan is to one day have a standardized education system across SADC countries, and free movement of teachers across borders, which can bring in quality teachers when they are available, to curb our own shortage.
“Knowledge and wisdom come from reading.” he said, “It is crucial. Everything is done in the medium of English.”