9 November 2018

Namibia: New Law to Regulate Pupil Admission

EDUCATION minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa says state and private schools will no longer be allowed to use tests and progress reports as criteria to screen pupils for admission purposes.

Hanse-Himarwa made these remarks in the National Assembly on Wednesday in response to questions and contributions to the new basic education bill from other parliamentarians.

The bill focuses on inclusivity and access, while also strengthening accountability for the sake of quality. It will replace the current Education Act of 2001.

The bill allows the minister to make regulations about the general admission of pupils in public schools.

In her statement, Hanse-Himarwa said screening tests and the use of examination or test marks on the pupil's progress report would no longer be allowed in schools as criteria of admission.

She said this regulation applies to all state schools, as well as private schools which are subsidised by the government.

The minister, however, said screening could only be allowed when a child is admitted to a school to establish whether the child has special educational needs "with the view to provide individual learning support to such a child".

"The child applies with a progress report and other appropriate documents, which are the documents that could be used for admission," she said.

Hanse-Himarwa added that the proposed law would clarify what is meant by screening tests, and what type of tests are allowed in schools.

She also stated that the ministry would get tough with teachers and adults who impregnate schoolgirls.

The minister said intimate relationships between a pupil and a teacher is a criminal offence.

The ministry will likewise ensure that adults who have no affiliation to schools are punished according to the relevant national laws protecting children from sexual violence.

An intimate relationship with a pupil above the age of 16, Hanse-Himarwa said, will be considered rape "if coercive circumstances under the Combating of Rape Act apply".

This applies to any child and any adult, even if the pupil is above 16 years old.

Although some parliamentarians wanted schoolboys to be punished for impregnating fellow pupils or at least to leave school until the girl has given birth, the minister said they would ensure that learner-fathers "are not punished with removal from education".

She added that the ministry would also ensure that "rehabilitation and counselling will be conducted with the respective learner- father".

The minister, however, encouraged parents, community members and school staff to report any inappropriate conduct, and to ensure that perpetrators are brought to book, although the ministry cannot intervene if such conduct is not reported.

"Parents, community members and staff in schools must take responsibility to report such conduct. Parents and guardians are encouraged to be vocal against perpetrators, and report them to the relevant authorities," she stressed.

On access to education for "street kids" and children living with disabilities, Hanse-Himarwa called on fellow parliamentarians to support and assist "street kids" as well as children living with disabilities to access education, "whatever the reason may be why they are on the streets".

"I will also call for the support of parliamentarians to ensure that the national policy on inclusive education is applied in all schools, and that they appeal to their constituencies in ensuring that the rights of children with disabilities to education are rightfully fulfilled," she said.

The minister also refuted claims that the Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) and the Namibia National Teachers' Union (Nantu) were not adequately consulted during the drafting of the proposed law, and that their views were not included in the bill.

"This is not true. Their views have equally been addressed in the bill. There is a tendency in this country for people to contribute and actively participate, and when the document is presented, they claim not to have been consulted," she said.


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