I would like to take this opportunity to applaud them for the abolishment of the school development funds (SDF) at primary school levels. It really is good motivation for people who are not affluent enough to sustain the costs of SDFs, school uniforms and stationery. It is a greater relief to most bottom-of-the-pyramid Namibians knowing they now have an opportunity of sending their children to school even if they do not have money for SDFs, and hopefully this will reduce the number of children roaming the streets with the reason of having failed to pay SDF.
However, allow me to bring into perspective one issue: I am referring to the issue of ICT [information and communications technology] or computers in the Namibian education system. Namibiaís Vision 2030 clearly articulates its objectives in terms of education and scientific independence. In terms of education the creation and implementation of Vision 2030 was preceded by the adoption of the countryís first-ever ICT Policy for Basic Education as far back as 1995 through the National Institute for Educational Development (NIED). This policy was revised in 2000, and further led to the creation of the ICT Steering Committee in 2003 whose duty was to provide the ministry with a more contemporary and complete document.
The ICT Steering Committee with all its partner organisations came up with a new Vision 2030 input that directed and influenced ICT Policy for education in 2004 which was approved by the Namibian Cabinet in March 2005 and was officially launched in June 2005.
To speed up this issue, the ICT policy for educationís main aim was to turn ICT, including computers, into a tool that provides new opportunities for teaching professionals about their information delivery to learners and students. The policy puts more emphasis on the pedagogical use of ICT as an integrated means in the teaching and learning processes at all levels in education. This to me means ICT should be brought straight into classrooms and used for both teaching and learning.
But letís be realistic here, it has been close to 18 years since the first ICT policy for education was adopted but computers and other ICT devices are still confined to principalsí offices, secretariesí desks, and computer labs for computers studies only in a few schools, mainly in urban areas. ICT materials are yet to reach classrooms where they are most needed.
There have been numerous advantages reaped by countries like the US and UK that have taken the ICT initiative into classrooms. ICT completely promotes pupil-centred learning and promotes independence of learning to the students, and these two advantages donít even make 20 percent of all possible advantages that ICT could bring to our education system, which will in the process instill quality and standard in our education system.
Which brings me to the following questions: a) why take out school funds when we are still failing to furnish our schools with necessary ICT equipment so that we bring timely positive improvements to our education, and in the meantime use the funds that will be provided to primary schools to bring computers into all classrooms, not just labs and offices? How long will it take for us to fully realise the potential rewards of having computers in education? How achievable is Vision 2030 with this sluggish progress in education? If the ministry takes full responsibility of financing primary education where will we get the funds to equip our classrooms with computers? How long are teachers going to take blame for poor results when they lack resources? We need to bring computers into classrooms, and let parents help with school development funds if we really want to provide quality education to our nation, an education that is marketable on an international level.
I hope this message reaches out to our leaders in the education sector as they strive to fully implement our National ICT Policy for Education.
* Given M Simataa is a teacher at Omulunga Primary School in Grootfontein and a Master of Education degree student, specialising in ICT in education, at the University of South Africa (UNISA).