Namibia’s education system hangs on four fundamental goals, namely, equity, quality, access and democracy. Coronavirus has surprisingly sent a devastating shockwave across the globe. The virus has adversely affected world economic activities, besides health and education. Business is no longer as usual. The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture has therefore ultimately opined that schools reopen on the basis of phases.
Grade 11 and 12 have already resumed classes, and recently grade 0-3 have just started with their face-to-face classes, and other grades are yet to reopen in the very near future. With compliance to Covid-19 precautionary measures, it is mandatory that teachers and learners always put on their mask and maintain the recommended physical distance of 1.5 m, for the sake of their own safety. This situation has forced the teaching and learning process to transpire while teachers and learners are wearing their masks. Albert Einstein once argued “learners learn differently using different techniques and methods e.g. some learn through visuals, auditory, touching (hands-on-product), and most relevantly some learn through interpreting nonverbal cues to infer the meaning.” To cement my argument, the science of teaching and learning theory stipulates that some learners learn very fast through interpreting nonverbal cues such as lips movement reading skills. In other words, lips can say a lot of things without words. For instance, learners with poor hearing ability may learn by watching the teachers’ lips movements when he or she tries to emphasize a point. This is to say, if the teacher is always wearing a mask that covers the mouth, are the learners going to holistically understand the message being put to them by the teacher?
I strongly believe that learners do not only learn through listening attentively or by attending to sound streams, but they as well learn through interpreting nonverbal cues; in this case I’m referring to lips reading. As a result, neither the teachers nor learners may grasp the information through lips reading and speech streams.
To shed more light on my argument, one of the well-known linguists named Noam Chomsky’s studies indicate that “lips which are pulled inwards from all directions are an indication of tension and may indicate frustration or disapproval. Biting the lip, centrally or at the side, is often a sign of anxiety.” Therefore, the only solution to this challenge should be that teachers should wear transparent face shields so that learners may interpret some information from their lips movement.
To add on, for schools located at the coronavirus epicentre of Namibia, which is Walvis Bay, classes are suspended until further notice, which include most critical grades, namely, grades 10, 11 and 12. In the same vein, some parents have voluntarily decided not to send their kids to school because they don’t want to gamble with their kids’ life amidst this out-cried pandemic. These learners are being deprived access and equity as basic goals of education, simply because other learners at different regions and areas are attending classes.
If the situation in Walvis Bay continues to deteriorate, are these learners going to repeat the same grade next year? Are there some special arrangements reserved for them to be promoted to the next grade? If these learners resume classes, I doubt if teachers will manage to complete and achieve all the basic competencies as per new rationalised syllabus, and have the learners ready for the next grade this year. Quality, as a goal of education would be compromised. So much time has been lost and it is time we go back to the drawing board to work around the virus for next year.