21 December 2012

Namibia: More Children in School

THE Namibian education system enrols an ever-increasing number of children, and more children are retained within the system, although repetition rates are going up.

This is contained in a recent publication titled 'Improving quality and equity in Education in Namibia: A trend and gap analysis'.

By the end of 2009, the net primary enrolment for Grades 1 to 7 was 98 percent, up from 89 percent in 1992.

The retention rate to Grade 8 has also steadily increased from 52 percent in 1992 to 77 percent in 2008.

Since independence to 2002, more girls stayed in school to Grade 5, but since 2003, boys' retention surpassed that of girls.

The school dropout rates are generally higher in the first and last year of a phase, particularly the upper primary and lower secondary grades. But there was a downward trend in school leaving rates from 2001 to 2009.

More children needed to repeat school years, especially those in Grades 1, 5 and 8. The highest repetition rate was in Grade 5, which peaked at 25,7 percent in 2007 from the lowest level of 20,5 percent in 2004.

The education system allows for automatic promotions based on continuous assessment in Grades 1 to 4, but pupils have to pass examinations from Grade 5 where examinations account for between 35 percent and 50 percent of the scores. The report thus states this probably explains the subsequent increase in repetition rates.

Pupils normally progress through Grades 1 to 9 without repetition. Only in cases where a teacher or teaching team in consultation with senior personnel is convinced that a learner will not benefit from progressing to the next grade, should learners repeat a grade.

The report said the increasing net enrolment and retention rates suggest that more children are participating in schooling and for longer. The increase in the gross enrolment rate suggests that the primary school system is becoming less efficient in terms of enrolling the maximum number of children in age-appropriate grades.

Attendance rates of learners are generally more than 90 percent, more so among girls. The regions experiencing higher learner absenteeism are the Kunene, Otjozondjupa, Omaheke, and Kavango.

The report said despite higher net enrolment figures, San learners are under-represented in primary school.

In 2007, there were 6 441 San learners out of the 570 623 school-going population. In 2009, there was a marked drop of San learners - 2 126 out of 585 471.

This is partly ascribed to a difficult choice faced by San parents whether to maintain their culture and lifestyle at the expense of their children's education.

But it is also acknowledged that while the Ministry of Education's language policy states that the medium of instruction in Grades 1 to 3 will be in the child's home language, the vast majority of San and Rugciriku-speaking learners are not being catered for at lower primary level.

This is either because there is a lack of will to implement the national language policy or a lack of means to do so, or both.

The report thus suggested that the Ministry of Education commit "substantially" more resources to minority language teacher training.

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