THE basic education ministry yesterday made a U-turn on its directive to prohibit successful part-time Grade 10 pupils from joining mainstream education, saying they will now be integrated into the formal system, provided space is available.
The ministry said pupils, who improved their Junior Secondary Certificate results for Grade 10 in 2019 on a part-time basis, can now seek full-time schooling if the regional offices can find space for them in the new Grade 10 curriculum.
This comes after the ministry issued a directive two weeks ago, barring these pupils from returning to full-time classes for their Grade 11 and 12, which caused an uproar in the education and social fraternity.
In that directive, education executive director Sanet Steenkamp said the concerned pupils were not going to be allowed back to full-time schooling because they were part of the old 'legacy curriculum', which has since been phased out as part of the implementation of the revised curriculum.
The reason for prohibiting the pupils was that courses that are part of the old curriculum were no longer offered in schools, according to Steenkamp.
However, deputy minister Anna Nghipondoka, at a press conference in Windhoek yesterday, said this was no longer the position of the government, adding that pupils who obtained 23 points through part-time study can now apply for formal schooling if they do not want continuing on a part-time basis.
"These pupils can apply with their original statements of results at the regional directorate, and the regional examinations officers then establish if there is a school with space in the current Grade 10 for the Namibia Senior Secondary Certificate Ordinary Level new curriculum," she said.
The deputy minister, however, advised these pupils to continue through part-time tuition centres in the old curriculum over two years, doing three subjects per year to obtain their Ordinary Level qualification.
"The courses that are part of the old curriculum were no longer offered in schools, as this is something new. For instance, subjects such as physical science are now separate from chemistry. We maintain our stance that these students should continue their studies on a part-time basis," Nghipondoka noted.
The government this year will also fully implement regulations aimed at improving the performance of pupils at schools, Nghipondoka said. As a result, the deputy minister said pupils who have not met the required performance targets for their specific grades "under the revised curriculum" and should be told to repeat a certain grade "to work harder".
The move to accommodate the part-time pupils on a full-time basis was applauded by the Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) yesterday.
Nanso secretary general Efraim Paulus said it would be beneficial "to these pupils, who need the correct guidance".
"The idea to have these children continue their schooling on a part-time basis may affect them negatively because they would be doing new work, without any proper guidance. Remember, these children improved their Grade 10 results, meaning they were just repeating work they have already done," he said.
However, Paulus noted that the new curriculum is also proving to be challenging, recording a poor performance in 2019. He further stated that the implementation of the new curriculum is a hurdle and proving to be a challenge for the pupils.
Two main teachers' unions in the country also joined in the chorus criticising the government for what they termed poor implementation of the new curriculum.
Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) secretary general Loide Shaanika yesterday at a press conference expressed her dismay over the way the government was handling the new curriculum.
Shaanika said inadequate government support was one of the reasons the implementation of the revised curriculum was not effective since 2015.
She said the government has failed to incorporate several changes that may have occurred after the curriculum was introduced into the implementation plan.
These, Shaanika said, include several policy recommendations in the fifth National Development Plan on the development of the new syllabus, provision of in-service training and continuous professional development programmes to teachers, among other things.
Other issues that could have ensured the successful implementation of the revised curriculum, Shaanika said, include the development of support systems, procurement and "distribution of support materials to the teaching staff and readiness of the current infrastructure".
Shaanika also expressed disappointment with the overall poor performance of Grade 12 pupils during the 2019 national examinations. She said the poor performance shows that there was a need for the government to redirect more resources towards education, especially to schools and "seriously review the staffing norm".
The union says the government must allocate sufficient resources to the basic education ministry as well as to institutions of higher learning, including vocational training institutions, in the 2020/21 national budget to help address all challenges that they face.
The secretary general of the Teachers Union of Namibia, Mahongora Kavihuha, said the revised curriculum was problematic, as it could widen the gap between the poor and the rich, instead of narrowing it.
"The situation, as it stands currently, is such that only a few pupils who meet the prescribed requirements to Grade 12 are most likely from wealthy families," he said at a press conference in Windhoek yesterday.
He further said the majority of pupils, most likely from poor families, will end school in Grade 11, which compromises their chances of taking courses relevant to more lucrative job markets such as engineering and bio-medical sciences.
Kavihuha said the reforms are not driven by Namibian needs and that teacher training for the new curriculum is not happening.
He said the union has received calls from teachers from across the country who are not equipped to teach the revised curriculum.
The union further noted that the universities are yet to publicise how they are going to handle these graduates from the revised curriculum.
The union also called that research programmes be commissioned to determine how many teachers would be needed and for what fields or subjects of study to address the issue of unemployed teachers in the country.
"It will also be very important that such a study or research focuses squarely on the subject of vocational training, especially in the light of the importance placed on it in terms of the revised curriculum," he said.
The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM)'s youth league also condemned the government's poorly planned implementation of the revised curriculum.
PDM youth league spokesperson Maximilliant Katjimune said they are against the introduction of kiSwahili into the basic education system.
Katjimune said: "Our rejection of the language should not be viewed as being un-African, but we simply believe that there are more important matters confronting our basic education system."
"It is hypocritical and unpatriotic to introduce other African languages while we, Namibians, have not even mastered our own indigenous languages. It must be the government's responsibility to ensure that Namibians are patriotic and learn a mix of Namibian languages, rather than introduce a language from a faraway country which has no relevance to the ordinary Namibian," he said.
Katjimune said they were also concerned with the continued poor performance of Grade 12 pupils in urban areas such as Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and other towns.
He said the results from the Kunene and Zambezi regions were also a cause for concern, as the two regions have been performing poorly for the last few years.