WINDHOEK - Swapo Member of Parliament, Lucia Nghaamwa, thinks there must be set requirements for appointing parents on school boards.
Currently, Namibia has no educational qualifications for parents to serve on school boards. Many are simply appointed because they are known in those communities, but at times cannot even read and/or write. Contributing to the Basic Education Bill in the National Assembly, Nghaamwa particularly raised concerns with school boards as stipulated in Part 4, Section 49 of the Bill. The Bill is clear as to which categories of persons must be represented on a school board. However, it does not speak about qualifications.
Nghaamwa says if government does not set requirements, then the school standards and the overall provision of quality education in schools will be negatively affected. She further argues that if a parent on a school board cannot read and write, then she/he will not fully understand her/his part school matters. “Parents are elected in many instances on school boards because of friendship, political affiliations and even tribal connections. The fact is that the Bill when becoming an Act empowers parents who have no clue on the required standards to recommend the appointment of teachers and principals. This leaves much to be desired. This is one reason that many schools underperform,” Nghaamwa notes.
She further questions whether a parent who cannot read and write will be in a position to carry out the functions of school boards under Section 50 (c), as stipulated to develop the vision and mission statement of the school. “Does a parent who is not well-versed in the English language understand what a vision and mission statement is? Would a parent whose function under Section 50 (i) is to advise and assist the director with the recruitment of teachers and other staff members at the school, subject to the relevant public service and education related policies and legislation, be in a position to execute such function? Does it not require such parent to read and understand the set legislation before he or she advises the director?” she questions.
The Bill and the current Act requires that the number of parents on the school board must constitute the majority of all the members of a board with voting rights.
Nghaamwa also takes issue with many school hostels in Namibia that cannot be seen as fit for children to live in. “Several are old and vandalised despite the efforts of hostel staff to keep them clean. There are sewerage leakages and water from old broken pipes all over. Hostel kitchens where food is prepared are just not good at all. There is also lack of basic facilities in most rural hostels such as mattresses and furniture in the rooms and dining halls. If there is a dining hall, then there are either no chairs or tables and learners have to stand while eating. The situation is discouraging especially for primary learners. These small ones have no idea what constitutes good or bad,” she reveals.
The politician further observes that many hostels do not have working toilet facilities and working showers, adding that learners have to use the bush when nature calls, which is an unhygienic and unacceptable situation to the welfare of learners in public schools. “It might be seen as a luxury, but I have not seen a hostel that has warm water. Learners have to brave the cold showers. I really feel bad. What can we do to turn the situation around and create hostels’ environments that are supporting quality teaching?” she asks.