24 September 2018

Namibia: Bill Must Be Referred to Committee - Tucna

THE Trade Union Congress of Namibia wants the National Assembly to refer the recently introduced basic education bill to a committee to allow for "proper public engagement and input".

Tucna leader Mahongora Kavihuha said this in an interview with The Namibian last week.

The purpose of the bill, according to minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, was to promote and regulate free basic education, while ensuring equitable and inclusive quality education and life-long learning.

The proposed law will ostensibly also protect the rights of pupils to education, and provide for the establishment, accreditation, registration, governance and management of state and private schools, as well as hostels.

During her motivation in the National Assembly last week, Hanse-Himarwa said the bill was crafted through the "most consultative act since independence".

Kavihuha, however, said the public still needs to be widely consulted on the bill because "most of the input, concerns and proposals" made during the consultation process, which was carried out by the education ministry and Unesco consultants, were not reflected in the bill.

He said the exclusion of such input meant that the ministry wanted to impose a predetermined outcome on the public, despite questions being raised on some critical components of the bill.

"If we have a bill like this one, it is very important that not only selected institutions but the entire public have an input in it. We can see that the proposed changes and our views were not taken seriously," he stressed. According to Kavihuha, some of the critical issues omitted from the bill are proposals on strengthening the "access, quality and articulation of educational programmes", and issues related to the training and deployment of teachers.

"As a union, we also feel that an education bill should not concentrate on disciplinary matters, but we want it to address the issue of teacher training, and other issues that will bring quality to education.

"Disciplinary matters are already being taken care of by other laws that are already active and efficient, for example the Public Service Act. That is what we wanted to see in the bill, but it was not factored in," he reiterated.

"We agreed to change the document during the consultations, but nothing was changed. This means those in the decision-making processes already had a preconceived position, and they just wanted to lip-gloss the process to look as if there were consultations held," he continued.

The unionist also raised concerns about the powers vested in school boards to investigate and advise regional directors and principals on disciplinary action against teachers.

He said the clause were not well-conceived because there was no "clear criteria of who should make up the school boards", and that "some members may be Grade 4 dropouts".

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