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Reggie Diergaardt concerned over educational planning

Dear Editor
Esteemed Readers

The scientist Albert Einstein said: ”It is not the atom bomb which is the problem, it is the heart of man. We need a complete new thinking if mankind is to survive.”

About this vital interaction of man and his motives and education and its purpose, Victor Frankl states: ”Today education must not confine itself to transmitting traditions and knowledge. But today education must see its principal assignment and mission in refining man’s capacity to listen to his conscience.”
Keeping in mind that we have just entered the era of a new Administration, I wish to dwell on the ever important and pressing challenges of Education.
Education is of fundamental importance. There is no social, political or economic problem one can solve without effective and adequate education. Some people see education as a way of accessing the labour market. For others, education is a way of bringing about social change and accomplishing greater social equality and justice. The notion that education is the greatest equalizer is indeed so true.
In the words of the great Mwalimu of Africa, Julius Nyerere: ”…here in Africa we can, by the use of our skills (education), help people to transform their lives from abject poverty – that is, from fear of hunger and always endless drudgery – to decency and simple comfort. We can help to relieve the women of the burden of carrying water on their heads for miles; we can help to bring light and hope to small children otherwise condemned to malnutrition and decease.
We can make our own homes – that is, the homes where the masses of our people live – into decent, comfortable places, where all the inhabitants live in dignity. But then we have to be part of the society which we are changing: we have to work from within it, and not try to descend like ancient gods, do something, and disappear again.”
Sometimes Namibians are referring to our education system as a system under siege. However, those who see a crises ought to recognize that education is a process – a lifelong journey, not a destination. It is the most traveled road and therefore a road that remains under construction.
As we constantly construct and improve on our education system, we ought to take cognizance of the fact that there are weaknesses and shortcomings that require collective input in order to design an education system that meets the unique needs of our people.
The Ministry of Education has put in place the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme (ETSIP) which is aimed at addressing the shortcomings. Particular concerns are, however, the following:
Poor socio-economic conditions – hungry, deprived learners certainly would find it much more difficult to concentrate than the well-looked after, rich children.
Lack of sound management at certain schools. In overwhelming instances, monitoring and mentoring are not applied as sound management practices.
Inefficient inspectorate and subject advisory services due to impediments such as lack of transport, financial and human resources, etc. This leads to crisis management and a reactive instead of pro-active operational system.
Emphasis should be placed on proper and effective planning. Dr. Robert Schüller once said: ”If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
The morale of teachers is low for well-known reasons. Much too often are diligent teachers mentioned in the same breath as lazy teachers, ineffective managers with effective managers and inefficient principals with hands-on principals. Then there is also the issue of unsatisfactory salaries and working conditions.
Overcrowded classrooms as a result of the ever increasing learner-teacher ratio, coupled with heavy workloads, are definitely contributing to an unpleasant learning environment.
The question that remains to be answered is what can be done to improve the status quo? Firstly, apart from the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme, it is important that we start off by restoring the image of the teaching profession. How?
Secondly, we should work hard and diligently to improve the standards in education where acceptable standard are lacking. Short, medium and long term plans should be designed by Principals in collaboration with the teachers and parents. These plans ought to be submitted to school inspectors for them to mentor and monitor the process.
Thirdly, candidates for the teaching profession should be carefully selected. Aptitude tests as well as competency tests should be conducted to ensure the right candidates are selected. There can be no denying the fact that the quality of one’s teachers will more often than not be the most important determinant of the height and rate of rise which each generation attains.
Fourthly, a system of rotation of Principals should be considered. In this way experienced principals may share their knowledge where necessary. This may be coupled with the earlier suggestion by the former Minister of Education that Principals may in future be appointed on a contract for a fixed period.
Namibians should be passionate about education, because education fosters a clear understanding that power lies in the preparation of the mind, body and spirit. I therefore can not but agree with Lord Brougham who said: ”Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave.”
Teaching involves activities which are predominantly intellectual in nature and the work performed by its members is basic to the preparation of all other professional endeavors – for this reason teaching is sometimes referred to as the ”mother of all professions.”
Let us henceforth go forward with a firm commitment to engage vigorously and perseveringly in making Vision 2030 a reality. A reality which will mirror, as closely as is humanly possible, what Jesus portrays through the teaching of His parables as the Kingdom; the Kingdom where truth and justice and peace prevail.

God bless Africa
Guide her leaders
Bless all her children
And give her peace

Reggie Diergaardt

(Contribution shortened – Ed.)

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