Former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, who is a teacher by profession, has suggested learners who are in critical grades, especially in grade 11 and 12 should resume classes because not every child can afford online learning.
She said this can be achieved through health protocols of social distancing and hand sanitising for these learners who were expected to sit for external examinations that will determine their fate to go for varsity level education. Her comments come days after government decided that schools will only resume face to face classes on the 3rd of August due to the Covid-19 regulations.
Since learners missed out on learning and teaching during the first and second trimester, Hanse-Himarwa suggests for other grades, schools should make use of accumulative performance of learners over the past years.
This, she says, will determine the level of competency of a learner, whether to promote them to the next grade or they should repeat.
“The reality that Covid-19 has brought to our education is definitely misery. It’s a disaster. My dream was to have an education system one day where a child carries a tablet contained with all subject content instead of a schoolbag full of textbooks,” she mentioned.
She said the education sector has achieved, planned and implemented a lot, which should be commended.
However, she noted the sector has been hard hit because government failed to invest into ICT.
According to her, the issue of connectivity has been a national one in terms of rolling it.
The former minister argued that during her tenure at the ministry, she has been emphasising the investment of ICT in schools to do away with paperwork and go paperless.
Hanse-Himarwa said with the meagre resources at the disposal of government, the current plans by the ministry to print study materials during Covid-19 to distribute to learners across Namibia is a waste of resources.
She said most learners are scattered around Namibia and it’s impossible to reach the majority of them to provide study materials and do assessment on their work.
“During Covid, we have learned that e-learning is possible and it’s a must. We have learned that it is no more a luxury. Technology advancement is a must. Instead of printing, you must cut cost and invest in technology. One thing I was adamant to achieve while I was there was to introduce quarters to reduce fatigue on learners and teachers because trimesters are long. When I was hard to bring a permanent solution; they were dilly dulling with me but now they realise that introduction of quarters is the last option,” she boasted.
Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) secretary general Loide Shaanika said, although everyone was caught unaware by the pandemic, its impact on education is very huge.
“This is in the sense that schools were closed earlier than it supposed to be in terms of the normal academic calendar. This means more academic time loss of about more than four months. It has created more competency gap within the learners and curriculum will not be fully covered,” she noted.
Given the challenges of economical aspect of parents and needs of learners, through the e-learning mode, the issue of equity is compromised.
She agreed not all learners have access to the internet or electronic devices they need to have access to the activities as prepared by their teachers.
So, in addressing some of those challenges, she said teachers are encouraged to prepare hard materials for the learners so that no learner will feel left out.
When Nantu visited schools earlier this year, we noted schools without water, no ablution facilities and overcrowding in classrooms and hostels, said the unionist.
“During this time, we are happy that these challenges will be addressed as we have raised them already with the ministry as there must be compliance in terms of health and safety measures as prescribed by WHO,” Shaanika noted.
She said their proposal is based on government’s option three, which states the academic year was to start on 3rd of June for critical grades (11 and 12) and others to follow through as the country continues to monitor the unfolding situation.
“Although the option itself would have its own challenges as well, in terms of social distancing even in the classroom, as it will result in duplication of some classes with overcrowded learners, the union had proposal to that,” she said.
She explained there is flexibility in the process in terms of stage 4 guidelines should there be no new cases picked, then the academic calendar can also be changed for learners to start earlier than 3rd August.