Dear ministers of basic and higher education, I am writing to you on behalf of hundreds of concerned TVET instructors who are currently teaching pre-vocational subjects in our primary and junior secondary schools across Namibia. I wish to draw your attention to two unique situations: one, Namibia has a vibrant vocational education and training system, which trains artisans with up to NQF level 6 exit qualifications. Most such artisans teach in our public and private TVET centres countrywide. Many of these artisans are unqualified instructors with NQF level 4-6 teaching qualifications obtained from recognised local or international universities.
The Namibia Training Authority (NTA), the custodian of TVET in the country can attest to the veracity of the financial and personal details of all the current qualified TVET graduates countrywide.
Two, the newly revised curriculum for basic education, which comprises pre-vocational subjects, requires graduates with trade-related qualifications. You will agree that most professionally qualified teachers in basic education do not have trade-related qualifications. Indeed, they are qualified in other fields, but can you imagine what happens if we risk implementing a pre-vocational integrated curriculum without teachers with relevant technical expertise. I can already hear you saying, ‘it will be catastrophic.’ And you are right. Why? Because naturally, it is a good practice worldwide to employ highly qualified teachers at lower phases to avoid the situation of a ‘blind leading the blind.’
Evidence shows that recently, many schools have begun hiring teachers with both technical know-how and teaching qualifications. In my opinion, such schools should be commended for their intentions to raise the quality of teaching and learning in Namibia. I am convinced that children in such schools will learn better than their counterparts in schools without technically sound teachers.
Strictly speaking, the decision to integrate pre-vocational subjects in the revised school curriculum was three-fold: first, to develop children’s skills in various areas of their social life, second, to teach socially desirable values among children, and third, to prepare children to develop a positive mindset towards the world of work. What many people do not know is that the ‘quality of learning depends on the quality of its teachers.’ As career educators yourselves, you will agree that employing qualified and technically skilled teachers leads to improve learning outcomes across the school system. Also, I am sure we all agree that motivated teachers lead to inspired learners, which in turn improves learners’ desire to learn and achieve better results. Generally, we all agree that inferior education and bad teaching negatively affect children’s current and future lives. You and I can appreciate and celebrate our current political and educational achievements, but none of us can be proud of the inferior Bantu Education system that we went through. You are I are lucky to have survived the system and none of us can wish our children to experience the education system of yesteryear. Bantu Education turned thousands of our unfortunate age mates into ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water.’ We are in Namibia’s 21st century and our children deserve a better learning environment. Article 20 of our constitution despises inferior teaching of any shape. Today, learner school dropouts continue unabated. We can only imagine how many Grade 7 learners from this year’s intake will pass, let alone reach Grade 11, at best. How many Grade 1 children enrolled in 2021 will make it to university in 2038. Imagine!
This letter has two dimensions that require your immediate attention and action. The first dimension submits that while some schools in Namibia have and continue to hire artisan graduates with teaching qualifications, such individuals are branded ‘unqualified teachers’. The question is: ‘why does the vocational training system classify these teachers as qualified but basic education labels them unqualified? In the Namibian context, the term ‘unqualified teachers’ denotes those educators who hold an academic or trade qualification without a professional teacher training certificate. Are the artisans currently teaching at basic education schools with a professional qualification from a recognised university unqualified? And why?
The second dimension submits that basic education appoints artisans who are qualified to teach at vocational centres as temporary teachers. Evidence shows that some of these artisans have been teaching for more than five years as temporary teachers. There are several questions to unscramble this situation: How many years must they teach before they become permanent teachers? What are the criteria for appointing temporary teachers? Why does Namibia continue to implement an inconsistent dual teacher placement policy regime for what appears to be a seamless pre-vocational-cum-vocational national curriculum? What are the policy provisions regarding the appointment and management of temporary teachers, including their professional development?
As ministers of the two ministries of education, I urge you to take immediate action to:
• investigate the accuracy of the information about the current appointment and temporary teachers’ policies of the ministry of basic education, and
• harmonise and restructure the policy instruments of the two ministries of education to respond to the curriculum needs of the Namibian people.