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Education system failing San learners

Mon, 3 November 2014 04:15
by Melba Chipepo

The Ministry of Education is yet to live up to its promise to fully implement the Mother-tongue policy for the San community, as part of the Sector Policy on Inclusive Education.
The policy was developed in 2012, and it is supposed to be a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all children, youth and adults through increasing participants, cultures and communities, and reducing and eliminating exclusion within and from the education system.
Statistics from the Working Group of Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA) reported that only 2 out of every 100 San learners enrolled in schools complete grade 12, a study released last year reveals.
WIMSA’s Education Office Manager, Kingston Makoni, says there is a big gap between policy implementation and progress.
“Up to now San children are still not learning in their mother tongue which is something that the government made mandatory for grade 1 to 5 learners, some learn in Oshiwambo which is difficult for the learners to understand” said Makoni.
The Language Policy for Schools in Namibia, was adopted in 1991 and was revisited in 2003 by the then Ministry of Basic Education, Sport and Culture (MBESC) which then called for all the learners’ mother tongue to be used as the medium of instruction during the first three years of formal education, with a transition to English thereafter, and the teaching of the mother tongue as a subject throughout the remaining years of formal education.
Other challenges faced by San children that lead to them facing difficulties accessing the existing education system, include severe poverty, severe social stigma by fellow learners as well as teachers as teachers base bad examples on San learners, travelling long distances to and from schools, the lack of learning materials in San language and the lack of mother tongue instruction in subjects, lack of respect for San culture and knowledge, as well as the lack of San teachers.
According to a report from the Legal Assistance Centre, in Ohangwena region San learners are facing difficulties as a high numbers of San children living in that region are not enrolled in school at all. The report also states that children from the San community have fallen victim to alcoholism, teenage pregnancies and early marriage with reports of bullying and threats in hostels.
Makoni highlighted the lack of mother tongue instruction in San language and the lack of Early Childhood Development facilities as the biggest challenges that San learners face.
“We have observed that the lack of Early Childhood Development leads to not only a high dropout rate but a high repetition rate as well. The enrolment rate in areas where WIMSA has set up Early Childhood Development facilities is higher than in those without.”
The organization believes that early childhood development is a critical factor in the overall education life of a child and should be accessible to all. On average only 1.8% of San learners enrolling for grade 1 make it to secondary school, while only a handful make it to tertiary institutions.
Makoni emphasized that the real problem for San learners arises when they reach grade 7 or 8 when they start feeling that they are different from their peers in terms of resources, which leads to them dropping out as well as high repetition rates. He highlighted that the drop-out rate tends to increase in secondary schools, as compared to that in tertiary institutions is low which is between 2 to 5%. He further urged the government to not only come up with policies but also see to it that those policies are implemented.
As a result of these specific difficulties, WIMSA feels that the right of San children to education has never been adequately supported and protected by relevant policies and structures. Subsequently, San communities display education levels and literacy rates that are significantly below national averages and this contributes to the on-going poverty and marginalization in the country.
In an effort to help learners in tertiary institutions WIMSA, pays for their accommodation, transport, stationary and other amenities.