Opinion – The other side of the high failure rate

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Opinion –  The other side of the high failure rate

 Many young people left their motherland in the Seventies into the unknown, with the main purpose of finding a system which would quench their educational thirst. 

That was so, because Bantu Education as Tabata (1980) categorised the aims of colonial education in South Africa and Namibia were barbaric because it divided the black populations along ethnic lines. 

The whites created and turned blacks into means of cheap labour; restricted competition between blacks and whites; promoted Afrikanerism; and instilled the notion of the baasskap of whites. 

Some Africans fell victim to colonial education, to such an extent that most of them lost their language, African names and identity completely. 

That was the system many young people were running away from, hoping to access an education system which would enable them to compete with the rest of the world. 

Come independence, many Namibians were shocked when they were told that the country was to adopt the Cambridge Education System, without much consultations with stakeholders. 

After almost 33 years of nationhood, the country is almost back to the colonial era, education-wise, in terms of producing good results. It is like at the end of Orwell’s Animal Farm, ‘looking from pig to man and from man to pig, there was no difference.’ There have been calls to stop finger-pointing, but one wonders what should people say when we have an 85% failure rate. 

An endless list of factors leading to the high failure rate has been compiled, and there seems to be no solution in sight. 

Some of us who went through the former Bantu education system are tempted to think that although the system was inferior, at least many learners passed in big numbers. 

It was possible for a teacher to pass the whole class and they proceeded to tertiary institutions, came back home and delivered. No one is praising the apartheid, oppressive and racist education system here, but our own system is equally failing the nation. 

One may only mention some of the few reasons why the system is failing to deliver. 

The current grading system in its form leaves much to be desired, as it has some flaws. 

Current members of the teaching fraternity simply cannot comprehend and cope with its operations. 

Passing learners from one grade to another, whether they are capable of comprehending the subject matter or not, is not helpful at all. 

The difference is that most of our teachers are not up to the task of assessing learners on a weekly basis. 

There are many reasons why they are unable to do so, but the main ones are simply lack of commitment and motivation. 

In countries like the United Kingdom, this system may be implemented with some form of success because the teachers may be equipped with the skills to do so. 

One cannot expect the same implementation with a Namibian teacher who lacks skills, resources and support from the community. 

In addition, many teachers in Namibia work under difficult and challenging circumstances, in which many schools have no electricity and ICT facilities to ease their work. 

Another angle which could be looked at is the conflict theory of Karl Marx, who maintains that expansion for education is due to demand for status by groups who compete for wealth, power and prestige, and it is a crucial element in the production of inequality. In this case, the powerful ones have the power and wealth to shape education or the school system by setting obstacles through education policies. 

In the Namibian education scenario, it is the schools in the regions and the rural poor which are receiving the raw deal. 

Educational resources are hard to come by, despite all the promises at independence that education was going to be a right for every schoolgoing child. Ombaka (2008) maintains that the control of education as a tool of dominance was transferred from the colonial elite to the African elite, often ethnic elite, and most African countries chose this model of education at independence. 

Bowles and Gintis (1977) argue that Western formal schools’ models reinforce class inequalities in societies. 

High school status communicates to their students the distinctive values and attitudes required by high status occupations in both outmoded and modern capitalist societies. 

Students in poorly-funded schools end up in lower collar jobs. They further maintain that Western formal schools have never created an equality of opportunity, nor to reform schools to cater for all classes of society. 

In this case, the Namibian political and wealth elite never send their children to poorly-funded local schools, but are always whisked to private schools, leaving the children of the poor masses wallowing in educational deprivation. 

This leaves the Namibian education system in the hands of people who do not care what happens to the majority of children from poor households. What reasons can be given for the high failure rate every year, after 33 years of self-determination? 

Maybe another education angle which should be looked at is the multiplication of fake certificates in this country. Some teachers are in possession of papers which they do not deserve, because they were acquired through dubious means. 

These teachers fail to deliver as expected, and the end-result is the high failure rate of learners. The powers that be should seriously revisit the curriculum and the qualifications of some teachers handling some subjects.