As our democracy ages and matures, it brings with it a lumpsum of political events and occurrences bound to influence our political climate for years to come. The past few months have been of extreme concern to us as a student organisation. While it is important to appreciate the gains made in education since 1990, this includes an elaborate school feeding programme, budgetary priority for the education sector and universal free primary and secondary education to mention but just a few. Namibia’s education sector still faces a mountain of problems. Earlier this month, it was reported that at a school in the Ohangwena region, about 900 learners have access to only two functional toilets.
A few kilometres from that in the Oshana region, schools are short of over 3 000 chairs and over 2 000 desks. In January 2020, the ministry of education released the National Senior Secondary School Certificate (NSSC) results, showing a pass rate that is still below 50%. A year ago, it was reported that over 4 000 schoolgirls fell pregnant, triggering 2 000 of them to drop out.
Over the past three years, the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) has failed dismally in ensuring that Namibian learners as prospective students, seeking tertiary education, are not hindered by their socio-economic status. Consequently, the ministry of higher education has seen at least two protests and demonstrations per year. For a peaceful country, these protests show that Namibian youth are frustrated by the state of the education sector. However, they symbolise hope – if Namibian students are protesting against their government, it is because they see hope and have confidence that things can change for the better. In November last year, the Namibian people used the voting franchise to renew their confidence in President Hage Geingob. The heart of this article is to pen down the hopes and expectations of Namibian students and learners in this new term.
It is hardly arguable that many of our problems are a direct consequence of governance; first at ministry level but also at school level. Every day, learners and students are confronted with school and institution management that is not so serious about the wellbeing of students, as it lacks the reactiveness to solve crises and problems before they arise. These management personnel report to ministers that are lax in their response to learner and student issues, as they are not creative in mopping up the mess in our education system. In this new term, we demand stringent measures of the performance of teachers, lecturers, heads of departments and principals. Most importantly, we demand from our ministers that they are responsive to the plight of students and learners in a creative, swift and passionate manner. We call on our current higher education minister to be proactive in responding to challenges and concerns of students. We further call on the executive director of the ministry to effectively steer the administrative processes of the ministry, while allowing the minister to constantly be engaged on the ground. We expect our minister to canvass all spheres of our society to rally around education.
Divide between rural and urban education complexities
It remains concerning that children in rural Namibia are franticly more disenfranchised than those in urban areas. This is evident in the lack of infrastructure and even where there is functioning infrastructure; it is extremely dilapidated and unsuitable for education. We realise that this class and economic division between urban and rural societies projects and reflects even upon our education system; we call on whoever would be appointed as minister of basic education to declare the next two years as business unusual and to focus on strategies that will allow for the holistic rehabilitation of infrastructure, developing incentives for highly qualified teachers to apply for posts in rural areas and further funnel adequate resources to rural schools to provide quality and dignified education in rural schools.
Orphans and vulnerable children
Mr President, it is imperative to note that due to the social strata of Namibia, many school-going children face the brute of man-made and natural social crises. The number of child-headed households is growing at a concerning rate. Programmes to ease education for disabled young Namibians are inadequate and their socio-economic challenges contribute immensely to a high drop-out rate, further impeding their academic success. It is against this background that we call on government to work with Nanso and the civil society to look at best practices to provide conducive environments for these children. No single child needs to be left behind – and we should provide long-term agency and mobility to all Namibian children.
Tertiary education funding crisis
The higher education levy seeks to deal with a massive issue plaguing higher education – student funding. Every start of the academic year brings challenges, protests and cries for student funding. The doors of learning are not open to all. The higher education levy will allow reconfiguring the role played by industries in funding higher education. Namibia boasts top profit-making companies and industries that play little to no role in funding higher education. This is going to change. Higher education stakeholders need to better regulate registration and tuition fees. There exist plenty of cases where the most vulnerable students get exploited because of their desire to seek an education. Nanso will bring forward a bill that will outline, analyse and provide implementable ways forward towards the regulation of tuition fees. We are fully aware of how capital demanding our basic education system is. This is unfortunately inappropriately affected by how widely dispersed our small population is. This has created a lag in the financial and administrative ability to bring quality education to every corner of Namibia. It is our wish to see President Geingob taking the private sector task on education, especially cooperates in natural resource extraction industries. We call on your Excellency to lead a campaign through his office to mobilise private sector donors to work with government as a matter of urgency to rehabilitate education infrastructure across the country; this should include building new schools where the demand is high.
Your Excellency, while we do completely understand and relate to the economic downturn the nation is facing and stand behind you in your drive to encourage foreign direct investment to boost the economic activity in the country, we feel obligated to ask you to remain conscious of the responsibility of the State towards education. Your second term has renewed hope for learners and students that indeed things are going to change. With the deployment of capacity in ministries, we look forward to policies being implemented. There exists a renewed hope in your second term. Count on us to bring our part in building an inclusive Namibian house.
2020-04-07 09:00:04 | 4 months ago