opinionBy Simataa Silume
Article Views (non — THIS written discourse is meant to address issues in the Namibian education system that teachers in public schools cannot wait to see even a platform created for them to be discussed.
It is platforms of such global discourse that the current Minister of Education has been too busy to entertain every time he showed up in some schools escorted by a NBC camera crew. It is the contention of this communication to register the unhappiness of the author with the rising levels of inequality in the Namibian education system. The author is particularly spurred forward by the quality of education meted out to the poor and confidently espouses that the system falls short of addressing 'concerns about the public good'.
The author feels it is only teachers who can adequately engage in the analysis of how the policies of world financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have exacerbated the appalling conditions under which educational activities are carried out in public schools in Namibia. The aforesaid observation reignites the sleeping potency embedded in the statement the author cherishes and that 'teachers in every part of the world are in the forefront of the struggle to ensure that children receive education'.
It is common knowledge that international educational conferences sponsored by the aforesaid international financial institutions awaken feelings of resentment and spark demonstrations in all parts of the world. All the resentment is owed to the fact that the policies imposed by these institutions have seen the conditions under which teaching and learning take place in public schools reduced to appalling levels. The International Teachers Conference held in Windhoek late last year (2012) was intended to discuss the conditions of teachers on the global level.
Policy makers the world over are being encouraged to move their educational systems in a single direction. The direction that is unfortunately meant to address national education needs at the dictates of the institutions mentioned above. Teachers were not only taken aback by the secrete hosting of an event of such magnitude, but the fact that administrative clerks were invited to discuss the conditions of teachers was beyond the imagination of all teachers in the education sector. It is beyond the author why the conditions of teachers could be discussed and policies that bind their work environment formulated in their absence.
The author contends that teachers in contemporary Namibia are educated enough to be able to analyse their professional needs and issues that affects their status should therefore seek their attention without fail. The author is tempted to be blunt in stating that teachers in Namibia also understand that international financial institutions do not just award loans without conditions attached to ensure that a given state would be able to repay the loans. This unfortunate scenario spells out unbearable hardships for public schools in many countries of the world. Namibia has equally failed to evade these 'draconian austerity policies' as government has embarked on unfortunate activities meant to reduce public spending in its desperate attempts to address benchmarks set by these market fundamentalists.
This author sheds light on what has befallen Namibian public schools, as our government succumbed to pressure by the "so-called Washington Consensus", as it is being enforced on many countries by these profit-driven institutions. The situation has resulted in overcrowded classrooms and it should be brought to the attention of our leaders that teachers find it difficult to understand how they should be silent if they are expected to pay particular attention to more than forty learners sitted in every class they teach. The nation should understand that reducing the teacher/learner ratio from the current forty learners per teacher to twenty-five learners per teacher would call for the employment of more teachers.
This owes to the fact that each class would break into two and therefore require the recruitment of more teachers in public schools. The employment of more teachers spells out more money to be pumped into the education sector and this would be in direct contravention of the policies dictated to governments by the aforesaid financial institutions the world over. The logic is that if forty learners occupy each classroom, and, as every lesson runs for a maximum of forty minutes in Namibia, a teacher remains with one minute to spend on each learner.
The situation is never made better by the fact that many learners in public schools are forced by their economic circumstances to attend classes hungry and one wonders how hunger could help prolong their attention span to complete their school work. It cannot be disputed that school feeding schemes would help curb starvation in public schools if it would not mean increasing public spending. The Ministry of Education has failed to provide resources needed in schools and a visit to many Katutura schools leaves one wondering who else will subject these outdated schools to comprehensive renovation activities. Public school hostel maintenance has been a colossal disaster and the 'rich elite' would take a teacher to court for accommodating their children in such obsolete facilities.
It is shocking that basic facilities such as toilets stopped proper functioning at the dawn of independence and have never been subjected to proper reparation endeavors for twenty-two years. The author should further stress that it pains teachers that they are expected to 'dance to the music of the Government of the Republic of Namibia' while the very government does not provide adequate textbooks and other learning materials need by learners in public schools. This compels the author to agree with his progressive scholar (Dave Hill) that the aforesaid, combined with the very difficult out-of-school circumstances children face, leads to high rates of repetition and dropouts and little education to those who manage to stay in school.
It should be stressed that teachers in public schools have noted with grave concern that the automatic transfer policy of learners through primary and junior secondary education is simply meant to rush Namibian children through basic education and to sent them out to private institutions like NAMCOL where they would be left to fend for themselves. It should not be disputed that NAMCOL is an omen of privatized education in Namibia and many poor parents in this country have demonstrated total failure in financing the education of their children out there. The author is left to wonder what kind of a country considers it legitimate to charge the poorest people in the world for basic education? The author does not doubt that our honorable leaders in this beautiful country agree that charging fees runs directly counter to many international agreements on the right to education.
The Grade 10 dropouts serve the interests of the profit-driven international financial institutions, for it means they are to survive out of government coffers. It is difficult to understand how government manages to look away when Namibian nightclubs are infested with these illiterate and innumerate youths, some of whom are as young as 51 or 17-years old. The author sheds tears to see Namibian teenagers knock at the doors of multinational corporations begging for employment for poor earnings, because their skills cannot secure them higher wages. Perhaps globalization implies the exploitation of the illiterate who cannot justify any claim to a better salary, for lack any academic achievement.
The author has observed that the reduction in public spending has been accompanied by the mushrooming and flourishing of private schools in the country. These institutions have only managed to lure the attention of the rich, for the exorbitant tuition fees confine the poor to low quality education offered by public schools. Namibia is now dichotomized into two different societies of education. One society is made up of the elite who manage to rise above the financial barrier and wallow into the world of high quality education synonymous with private education institutions.
The other society, on the other hand, is made up of a huge number of fellow Namibians who cannot break down their financial fetters, which deny them access to a better education. They therefore have no choice but to wallow into the seas of low quality education provided by the impoverished Katutura-like-left-alone schools. The space does not allow the author to elaborate further on how schooling in capitalist Namibia has seen many Namibians give up the fight against the poverty morass. Part two will deal with how the policies imposed by these financial institutions have greatly affected the salaries of teachers, worsened teaching conditions and how the teaching profession has been demeaned and denigrated in Namibia. I rest my case for now, Ku katala ndati!