Teacher unions irked by overcrowded classrooms

Home National Teacher unions irked by overcrowded classrooms

WINDHOEK – With the 2019 academic year having kicked off and so many learners’ placement taking place, the teachers unions have expressed concern regarding the overcrowded classrooms in schools.

It has been reported that some public schools were forced to accommodate more learners than the agreed ratio of one teacher per 30 learners in secondary school while for primary school its one teacher per 35 learners due to inadequate classrooms.

For instance, in Kavango East Region, there have been reported cases of schools having accommodated 70 learners per classroom because of unavailability of space.

The most affected schools are those in the Rundu Circuit where some grades have up to 75 learners per class.
New Era reported that hundreds of learners at Ndama Combined School in Rundu have had to endure the discomfort of sitting on the floor for their lessons in various classrooms and grades, especially for Grades 4 to 9 because the school whose classes are also overcrowded does not have sufficient classroom desks.

This arrangement however did not sit well with teacher unions – namely the Namibia National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) and the Teachers’ Union of Namibia (TUN). TUN Secretary General Mahongora Kavihuha told New Era that the provision of space in schools is a major problem.

He said as a union, they are trying to consult their colleagues – in particular Nantu and the Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) to mobilise their members to boycott teaching a class that is not as per the learner teacher ratio.
“Learners should refuse to enter a class that is more than 30 in secondary schools. Teachers should also refuse to teach a class that has more than 30 learners in secondary schools. Learners should refuse to enter a class that is more than 35 in primary schools and teachers must also refuse to teach such classes so that we can give government the medicine it needs to be serious in terms of spending in education,” he suggested.

Asked how boycotting classrooms would help the already worse situation, he responded that classrooms will be reduced to the agreed norm. 

He also said government will be forced to build classrooms faster or places which are white elephants to be turned into schools and more teachers will be recruited so classes can be manageable and quality education can be given.
Further, he noted that TUN is looking for a long-term solution so interventions are introduced to avoid repeating the same mistakes every year. 

Nantu Secretary General Basilius Haingura said the new curriculum has created a total mess, adding it has also brought overcrowding of classrooms where some schools now have about 70 learners in a class which is over the normal ratio of 1:35. 

He viewed education needs support especially to teachers in order to offer quality education.
Haingura said its high time government should take education seriously.

“When you talk about unemployment, who produce unemployment? In reality it’s the Ministry of Education. Those who dropped, tomorrow they will not be employed. Therefore, we should invest and analyse where is our shortcomings and take it from there,” he reacted.

On the Grade 12 ordinary level performance, Haingura said he cannot say there is a significant improvement. 
Out of 23 594 learners who sat for their Grade 12 full-time ordinary level in 2018, only 9 524 (40.4 percent) made the mark of 25 points in five subjects including English to proceed to university for a degree programme compared to 8 632 (39.3 percent) in 2017.

“We need to do more so we can make a meaningful improvement. This one is just a slight improvement. You look at the number of those who qualify for university and those who didn’t make it, it’s still a concern,” he noted.
Kavihuha congratulated those who made it to university.

However, he said as a union, they are not impressed by the results, saying over the years the results have been moving back and forth on a very marginal improvement.

“It means we have been doing the same mistakes. We have been unable to confront the challenges head on and we have also been living in denial in terms of challenges facing the ministry of education. That is why we always have stagnated results. The increase of percentage to me is not something one could be happy with. Overall the results have stagnated, that’s the bottom line,” he noted.

He said the input TUN is getting from its members at schools is that the new curriculum did not get its foot somewhere, saying it is still in a very confused state. 

He added that there is no proper preparation of teachers for the new curriculum. He said he gathered that teachers still did not get proper training for the new curriculum while the provision of materials especially for those schools having vocational education is still an issue.

“I visited two schools. We had a discussion whether they received materials for the new curriculum. Not even a hardcopy syllabus is there at the schools,” he said.