Brave Warriors did not win their game against lowly Rwanda’s B-team; a dozen or so police officers were shopped for bribery and corruption, some of their number did the usual rounds at the illegal shebeens again, and warned the traders again about illegal trading, in the process pointing out that Groot Aub liquor licences are unfit for trade in Windhoek; road carnage continued unabated; attempts at convincing the rapists to keep up their zips yielding zero results and “passion crime” continued, with all the passion, only with one reported botched passion killing at Dordabis; more learners were arrested for theft of exam papers and authorities announced that the numbers of pregnant learners were happily increasing; the secretary general of Swapo commandeered some hapless villagers to listen to her dress rehearsal of the victory speech except, for some silly reason, NBC news reported this as a belated Heroes’ Day speech (in October, really?).
And President Pohamba had a jolly good time with the visit from his good friend, President Faure Essozima Gnassingbe of Togo. (We didn’t know our president parlet francais tres bien.) And our President promised to return the favour and pay a visit to Togo just to ensure that trade relations have taken off and the natives are now using our salt in their kitchens.
But for those who believe that we must plan today for tomorrow’s successes, last week certainly was a dreary one. And this on account of two stories carried by local media on the appalling conditions under which a growing number of Namibian children struggle to make ends meet.
The first report relates to our education outcomes – an issue which should certainly now be treated as amounting to a national crisis. The second report reminds us again that over the last decade or so, our children are progressively stunted. The combination of these two is a cocktail for a national calamity in a country which, boasts not only of its latent wealth but which year in and out, doles out huge sums of money into a seemingly bottomless pit for health and education delivery.
It is time to see the results and it was, therefore, not a moment too soon that the president has appointed a Commission of Enquiry into health delivery. We are aware of the national conference on education last year, and the laundry list drawn up at its conclusion. We need, however to interrogate the efficacy and urgency with which these resolutions are being implemented and how soon, if at all, these will turn around the present scandalous outcomes in our education.
The latest edition of the Southern and East African consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) reports that all is not well with our education. In comparative tests carried out, involving Grade 6 learners from South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia the results are sobering and a cause for great concern. It says a staggering 48 percent of our Grade 6 learners are functionally innumerate whilst they do slightly better with reading with only 14 percent functionally illiterate.
Also, our children lack enough textbooks and there is an unacceptably high rate of teacher absenteeism and many, many hungry children who cannot concentrate on the lessons. The philosophy which underpins our educational approach of access, equality, democracy and quality seems not to have delivered for these children. Whereas access has increased, quality appears to have suffered along the way.
The SACMEQ outcomes are such a far cry from our blueprint ‘Education for All (2002-2015)’. We need to walk backwards to understand where and why we derailed. The SACMEQs report states the obvious, namely, that education is a fundamental precondition for progress and growth. We also endorse their ringing conclusion that in education, access alone is no longer good enough but “rather its ability to impart to students the knowledge and skills necessary to function as literate and numerate members of broader society...”
To compound matters, the UN system released a report last week on the condition of global food insecurity. Namibia achieved prominent mention in the hall of shame in that our level of those facing undernourishment stands at a frightening 35% of our small population.
The global average is 12.5%. This places us among the first 10 countries globally were undernourishment and malnutrition reign supreme. So not only are our young ill-educated but they are malnourished and stunted.
The two reports combined, demonstrate that government’s investment model in the health and education of our children speaks of a resounding failure and an unmitigated disaster.
The cruel harvest of the government’s policies of the last two decades amounts to a failing education system, a widening gap of inequality and deepening poverty characterised by malnutrition and undernourishment.
And for this reason, we should hope that those who delivered this outcome could not have an easy weekend but combed through the two reports to provide us an answer as to how we ended up here as well as a rapid escape from this quagmire. Perhaps there will be a government statement on these two international reports as the much vaunted peace and stability now rest on feet of clay? For the conundrum is how long you can stretch the patience of hungry parents with starving children. Show them a middle finger? Give them a debushing tender or an EPL with a Panado thrown in? It’s your call.