Four in 10 children not ready for school – Steenkamp

Sanet Steenkamp

Eexcutive director of education, arts and culture Sanet Steenkamp says due to limited investment in pre-primary education, nearly four in 10 children are entering Grade 1 without adequate school readiness.

Steenkamp said this at the HCA Pre-African Unit Roundtable Summit themed ‘Linking Foundations of Education to the Future of the Continent’ in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday.

She said only 55,1% of pre-primary-aged children receive a year of pre-primary education.

“This contributes to high repetition rates in Grade 1 (17,3%), Grade 4 (18,3%), and Grade 5 (17,0%), along with low retention and performance. Notably, in Grade 10, a substantial repetition rate of 21,3% indicates that many pupils complete primary education with insufficient foundational skills, hindering a seamless transition from learning to earning.

“The cumulative impact of repetition and dropout rates results in a significant loss of investment, potentially irreversible in terms of education outcomes, human capital development, pupils’ future earnings, and efforts to reduce unemployment and poverty levels.

“This early childhood period offers a critical window of opportunity to invest in shaping the trajectory of a child’s holistic development and build a foundation for their future,” she told delegates.

Steenkamp said as a result there have been demands that the government should zero in on investing in early learning as the foundation for lifelong learning, with a focus on vulnerable and marginalised communities.

“Prior to the transforming education summit at the United Nations headquarters in September 2022, the ministry conducted extensive regional and national consultations, leading to a national conference on transforming education in Namibia, reaching over 20 000 stakeholders both on- and offline.

“These consultations resulted in the birth of a strategic plan and a Project Charter 2023-2029 to implement the national conference recommendations and the Transforming Education Summit commitments,” she said.

“For Namibia, securing funding for all children in the pre-primary age group is a priority and high on our national agenda, as this will not only generate the highest returns on education, but will also help us prepare pupils for school – resulting in better outcomes, including reducing costly repetition rates.

“In addition, we are reforming our school funding system to be more equitable. Pursuant to this endeavour, Cabinet approved, in June 2023, the school grant policy to reduce existing inequities through an efficient and equitable funding mechanism that ensures that schools and their pupils from different socio-economic backgrounds access adequate resources required to participate fully in education, irrespective of their past historical, material or social-economic disparities or level of social marginalisation,” she said.

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