18 January 2013

Namibia: Political Perspective


EDUCATION takes many forms. It's in the public eye right now as a result of the just-released results and most of the schools that have performed well are private rather than government ones.

That doesn't come as any surprise. But what really makes the difference? Is it really all about money and better resources, or is it also about parental involvement and, of course, better teaching? These are questions not easy to answer without a more formal investigation, but I have some thoughts to contribute to the debate. A second aspect I want to look at is whether those who haven't made the grade need to feel a sense of hopelessness, and be relegated to the 'streets' (read unemployment)?

QUITE obviously, we aspire to having an educated nation. This is seen as a prerequisite for progress and development, and perhaps not surprisingly so. But I would dispute that it is necessarily all about schooling, maintaining (as I have done before) that not everyone is academically inclined enough to pursue studies at a university or 'academic' level.

Perhaps too prevalent among our youth is the fact that they go to school because they must and not because they want to. Teachers don't always inspire a sense of excellence and achievement because many of them don't feel passionate about what they do. If teaching is 'just a job' then pupils will suffer. And if parents in turn except the school to do it all, equally the youth have little to no support on the home front.

Private schools (probably) do have the advantage of better qualified and more committed teaching staff. Remuneration may be better, but there is more to it than that. There is also benefit in the fact that most parents can afford to pay more in terms of fees, but this must not take away from the fact that many middle-class and even poor parents have been known to make huge financial sacrifices to get a good education for their children, and more importantly, take an active interest and/or get involved in their child's progress. Although many parents are unable to assist their children because they simply don't have the knowledge to do so, they could at the very least ensure that the requisite work is done.

But education isn't only about the classroom. It has to be complemented with what happens outside school hours. Encouragement of sport; of all children developing their potential and a sense of social responsibility and doing community work to open their eyes to the real world; of teachers seeing areas of potential and spurring the youth in the right direction; reading and taking an interest in what happens around them.

To build towards a sound future it is important that our youth get a good and solid grounding at school level - they don't necessarily have to excel - but more importantly, that they are well-rounded young people who understand that life is about working hard, constantly improving oneself, and striving at all times to be good and ethical members of society. If we have children with a successful school career, but who are lacking in regard to other all-round social and other skills, they will be found wanting in the marketplace. Conversely, I would maintain that children with good grounding and social skills, curiosity and a drive and work ethic, can do well even if they haven't cracked top results as scholars. I don't care what anyone says about unemployment, but there's a wealth of possibilities out there for the entrepreneurially inclined youth if they are able to take up the challenge.

Not to be underestimated (and it's always been a pet insistence of mine) is reading. It is likely that of all the children who've done well at either private or government schools, most are readers outside of the school curriculum, an underestimated joy and privilege we should carry through the rest of our lives (the attraction of social media aside).

It is not a hopeless scenario for poor performers, but for those who haven't done well at school and don't possess the social skills and general knowledge of a well-rounded individual, then they will have to settle for jobs, if they're lucky, at the lower end of the scale. And if they haven't done the best they can do, even in spite of lack of good schooling or parental support, then they have to accept their fate and learn to live with it.

Bad or mediocre results aside, it's not all doom and gloom for our youth who've not made it at school level. With some backbone, the desire for self-improvement and the will to succeed, they can and will do better, even seen against those who've had the world on a plate due to a more fortuitous background in life.

Society hasn't done all we can do to help and encourage them to succeed. We should not just bemoan the poor results and in so doing, foment a sense of inadequacy which will deeply disadvantage our youth.

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