It Takes a Village to Make the Grade

Noreen Sitali

It’s encouraging to see some Namibian schools getting positive mentions in the public arena.

Politics aside, the narrative about public schools has been generally negative, detracting from the effort of many hardworking teachers, parents and pupils.

The education system can only be flawed if there are poorly performing teachers, poor work ethics, lack of community and parental support, poor control by education authorities, poor support for teachers and very low levels of accountability.

Yes, it indeed takes a village.

Namibia’s high failure rate has been attributed to the new curriculum and the hard transition from the “traditional aims and objectives approach to outcomes-based education”, a very hard paradigm shift.

When this particular cohort of pupils enters tertiary studies, it becomes apparent they were not adequately prepared.

All in all, inadequately trained teachers, inadequate support and the absence of teaching and learning resources would directly contribute towards the failure of a curriculum.

Just the other day, I overheard a Grade 12 teacher from a public school saying that concerns about the declining quality of education include under-prepared pupils resulting from internal promotion practices and the need by schools to achieve high pass rates in especially Grade 12.

As a result, educators at secondary school level blame educators at the preceding levels for producing pupils who, among others, cannot read or write at the levels needed for tertiary studies, thus making their work difficult.

INFLUENCES

Considering the high rate of unemployed youth and graduates, it is essential that especially African countries develop education systems that allow as many children as possible to go to school and to seek an education of a sufficiently high quality to enable them to enter the labour market, earn an income, and also contribute to the economy.

Yes, it takes a village, and the community has an influence on what happens at schools.

A school can be a mirror image of the community in which it is situated.

Pupils reflect these experiences and it is crucial that the focus should be on positive relationships, as well as parental roles and community involvement. Equally important is that we should take pride in the teaching profession.

By the same token, educators need to show classroom management skills.

In this regard, curriculum changes and recommendations need not always be ‘big-bang’ changes.

Initially the changes should be small across a wide range of areas.

To produce results will especially require changing a deeply ingrained culture of inefficiency.

  • Noreen Sitali is an information officer with an interest in social issues. This article was written in her personal capacity.

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