Namibia: Schools Could Reopen Early for Critical Grades

Some education stakeholders have agreed amongst themselves that learners who are in critical grades, especially in grade 11 and 12, should resume classes by 3 June.

This would allow them to complete their academic year on 18 December this year.

Government had announced that all schools would resume face-to-face classes on 3 August and during stage 4 of the post-Covid-19 lockdown period.

However, education stakeholders representing teachers, proposed to the education ministry this week to have the schools reopened on 3 June for grade 11 and 12 learners who are expected to sit for external examinations.

Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) and Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) all agreed that critical grades should resume next month instead of delaying the academic calendar to next year. Their proposal is similar to that of former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa who last week suggested learners who are in critical grades, especially grades 11 and 12 should resume classes. The unions also agreed that other grades would then resume between July and August as the situation dictates. Nantu secretary general Loide Shaanika said they have been in consultation with the ministry in considering option 2 for the 2020 academic calendar, as option 1 as approved by Cabinet, comes with some challenges that might disadvantage learners. She said Nantu is still in support of option 2 for the phasing in of grades as from June to August.

"However, the union is now busy consulting all school principals in all 14 regions, to discuss the modalities in terms of practical implementation of this option, keeping in mind the duplication of some classes in overcrowded schools, and social distancing should be observed. In some schools, the duplication of classes will result in additional human resources," Shaanika noted.

TUN secretary general Mahongora Kavihuha argued that Namibians can't divorce their December summer holidays from the school calendar, therefore to change it next year does not make sense. "Summer holidays which are December school holidays in Namibia are tailored to rural economic activities such as crop cultivation and calving periods of domestic animals where school children are both required to go and offer an assisting hand and receive skills transfer from elders which is purely an educational exercise," he said.

He said options 1,2 and 4 are regarded as unrealistic socially, economically, and environmentally to the Namibian realities, hence TUN proposed option 3 with interventions to ensure the completion of assessment in schools. Both unions agreed on strict observance of social distancing protocols in classrooms by reducing the number of learners per class.

- anakale@nepc.com.na

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