The Ministry of Gender, which designed the teaching curriculum for private pre-primary schools in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, says most privately-owned pre-primary schools are not meeting the ministry’s standards to benefit from the Early Childhood Development plan.
Ministry of Gender’s Permanent Secretary, Erastus Negonga, said “Most of the private pre-primary schools are not yet registered with our Ministry, because they have not met the standard required by the Ministry but we are working on building more Early Childhood Development schools to add to the ones that already exist,” says Negonga.
Negonga told The Villager that the childhood development program is also supposed to assist privately owned pre-primary schools with building material to upgrade their infrastructure, but only if they meet the requirements. He noted that many pre-primary schools are not registered with the Ministry of Gender yet and it is preventing the owners from receiving support.
The Ministry is also responsible for providing skills needed by pre-primary teachers by offering annual training. Trained teachers are then encouraged to start up their own pre-primary schools, or join the existing ones.
Negonga added that in order for pre-primary schools to be supported, they would need to have recreational facilities, provide a safe environment and proper sanitation service.
The Ministry of Gender says it cannot close down schools that do not meet the standards, but instead give them time to be able to work up to the required standards.
The Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Education, Alfred Ilukena, said they are in the process of discussing with their sister (Ministry of Gender) to see how they can fit private pre-primary schools into the state programs. Ilukena added that the private pre-primary schools are expected to comply with the standard that is required from the Ministry of Education system.
The pre-primary, also known as kindergartens, provide early childhood development are privately-run and the Ministry of Education only gets involved when learners get to their grade one in government primary schools. Ilukena added that The Ministry of Education so far only has guidelines of pre-primary schools that are falling under the Ministry, but not the private ones.
Private pre-primary school owner, Tuyakula Munale, said that schools like these make the effort to update infrastructure but the parents of pupils are not willing to meet them half way with financial support.
“We have to shape our children all of us; it is not a one man show. The community members who have their children attending at my pre-primary school cannot even volunteer to cook for children during the course of the week,” she said.
Tuyakula Pre-primary School in Hakahana accommodates about 60 to 75 children from informal settlements.
Munale said the institution receives support in the form of donated food from Namib Mills on a monthly basis which, she says, is not nearly enough to feed the children.
The school which is currently being upgraded from its corrugated-iron structure, is registered with the community development office of the City of Windhoek which is responsible of ensuring that the school has a toilet and fire extinguisher tools.
“After being trained by the Ministry of Gender and child welfare and the city of Windhoek (under community development office), we were sent to go start our own pre-primary schools,” she said, adding that “It is not easy to get support from the Ministry of gender equality and child welfare because we are many. They only pick about 3 or 4 people out of 60 people who they then decide support with providing building materials.” Munale said that she wants to extend her school but there is not enough space, and the space that is provided by City of Windhoek has become small. With other private pre-primary schools they are facing a challenge of paying their teachers on time and poor salaries because not parents are committed to pay their demanded school fees. Some private pre-primary schools were funded by donors from abroad who, in some cases, have stopped their funding because their focal points are no longer in the country.
Some privately-owned pre-primary schools in Windhoek are also not meeting the infrastructure requirements, which are preventing them from benefiting from the financial resources controlled by Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare under the early childhood development program.
At least 4 privately owned pre-primary schools in informal settlements have poor infrastructural setup, with pupils being required to sit in corrugated iron shacks for classes and even in immobile bus wrecks due to a lack of funding.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Gender confirmed to The Villager that there are 2900 caregivers that are subsidized by the ministry as well 2000-3000 Early Childhood Development Centres around the country that are supported by the ministry under this programme.