The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) wishes to comment on the statements made by Education, Arts and Culture Minister, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, regarding the challenges faced by the public education sector as quoted in the media. The fact that Minister Hanse-Himarwa would identify a lack of space for children in schools and a shortage of school hostels as problems facing the education sector is an indication of a complete miscomprehension on her part of the issue plaguing public education in Namibia. Rather, these are consequences/symptoms of a deeper problem, not only within the education ministry, but across government as a whole. It is surely not rocket science for a competent ministry of education to use the endless learner numbers it demands from all schools at the start of every school year to predict the number of school places that will be required throughout the country for the next five years - ask any half-competent statistician to help if the ministry has no-one suitable to do this! After almost 30 years this simple exercise is surely not too much to expect from this government! One can only wonder what the ministry does with the reams of numbers it gathers annually from schools except to use them to force schools to stuff more and more learners into every classroom. Minister Hanse-Himarwa is the last in a long line of Swapo leaders who has succeeded only in producing spectacular failures and the most ingenious of excuses for these failures in public education in Namibia. Considering that the Swapo government has failed to deliver an effective solution to the total collapse of public education in Namibia for close to three decades is evidence that Swapo simply does not understand, let alone know, how to solve this problem of their own making. When the minister of education points to a lack of sufficient spaces in schools and a lack of hostels as problems facing public education, then surely one must begin to question the planning process within the ministry of education. In fact, one must ask whether use is made of evidence-based planning in the ministry of education and across the entire government. For when a government department as crucial as the ministry of education is unable to accommodate new learners in schools every year, while at the same time producing low quality products, it becomes obvious that planning must be a neglected and overlooked aspect of how the ministry conducts its work. How else could one explain the abysmal return on investment of public funds that are allocated to the ministry of education on an annual basis? Where planning is poor or neglected in the workflow process, implementation and monitoring and evaluation are likely to suffer as well. This is a basic and easily understandable idea yet it seems that those in the top echelons of government are oblivious to this. The PDM believes that for a minister to state that public schools will not have enough space to accommodate all learners in a coming academic year is in and of itself an admission of failure on the part of that minister in particular, the president, and the government as a whole. Every year countless Namibians must delay the start of their children’s education because of the outright incompetence of and incorrect prioritisation by the Swapo government. This is unsustainable, and if not rectified immediately, will severely compromise any effort at socio-economic advancement for many, if not the majority, of Namibians. Furthermore, the mixed signals sent by the ministry of education regarding public education are an indication that those at the top have little understanding of what they are doing. That government would introduce universal so-called free education at primary and secondary levels, in the process removing the school development fund, and Minister Hanse-Himarwa and her predecessors then have the audacity to state that government alone cannot be expected to deliver quality education and that the help of parents and the private sector is needed is, for the lack of a better word, nothing short of schizophrenic doublespeak. Her statement in this regard in Republikein of 19 December thus begs the question: Is there free education or not? Or was the announcement of so-called free education simply one more cynical way of buying the votes of the poor with a promise that cannot be delivered on? The evidence points to the fact that the Swapo government is not just gambling with the future of thousands of young Namibians, but is itself becoming a threat to the peace and stability that President Hage Geingob and his cabinet ministers are always so eager to preach about. The PDM believes that the time for such blatantly populist politics is over. The government cannot fool all the people all the time! We need to find sustainable, workable, long-term solutions to the problems that plague our society, instead of giving in to populist politics in order to score cheap political points. Maintaining our current trajectory of public programmes and initiatives that are not well developed and ultimately poorly implemented, a hallmark of Swapo governance, will be the undoing of our society. • Nico Smit is treasurer general of PDM and the party’s MP in the National Assembly.
2018-01-05 09:40:52 8 months ago