Landless People’s Movement (LPM) parliamentarian Utaara Mootu has dubbed the University of Namibia (Unam) a sell-out for refusing to admit Grade 11 pupils.
“We know Unam was a sell-out. We were among the people who were protesting so Unam could make provision for some pupils to be admitted, but they were never for us.
“So, we are not surprised that they have reached this conclusion,” she said during a press conference in Windhoek yesterday.
Mootu called on Unam’s vice chancellor to allow negotiations to accommodate Namibian children.
“We really need to take education seriously, and the minister needs to be fired. I will mention this again in parliament as I have before,” she said.
Speaking at the same event, LPM Youth Command leader Duminga Ndala said the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture’s investment in education is not reflected in 2023’s examination results. “We are gravely concerned over the overall results of the Grade 11 and advanced subsidiary level examinations, despite the substantial investment in the education sector,” she said.
Ndala said out of the 40 682 pupils who sat for external examinations in 2023, only 10 262 qualified to proceed to advanced subsidiary level or tertiary education.
She said pupils who did not qualify will contribute to the country’s already high unemployment rate.
“Thus we believe a thorough study of the current state of education is necessary . . ,” Ndala said.
The education sector receives 22,5% of the national budget – the highest amount allocated to any ministry, she said. Ndlala said inadequate infrastructure is viewed as a barrier to providing quality education.
She said that during a visit to the Kunene region and a tour to schools in the area, she saw most schools did not have proper desks to aid the learning process.
“It is vital for us to acknowledge that inadequate infrastructure is one of the factors crippling education, and therefore also crippling pupils’ performance,” Ndlala said. In an interview with the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation last week, Unam’s student recruitment and operations officer, Josy Nghipandua, said students with Grade 11 certificates would not be admitted to Unam.
Clarifying the matter, Unam spokesperson Simon Namesho said as a “top-ranked and reputable university”, it bases its entry requirements on the national Grade 12 school-leaving certificate. “This ensures a seamless transition and alignment between the basic and higher education subsectors, a critical element in an effective and responsive higher education system in any country,” he said.
Ndala, however, said this decision goes against the constitutional right of children not to be denied an education.
“There is definitely an information gap, or perhaps the education ministry is misleading the nation, including the president, to say there was proper and thorough consultation with the institutions of higher learning,” she said.
She called on the government to stop funding Unam, as it receives the largest chunk of the ministry’s budget, if the university continues to refuse the admission of Grade 11 pupils. Namesho made reference to the media statement released by Unam on 19 January clarifying the university’s admission criteria. It states that Unam acknowledges the challenges faced during the implementation of the NSSCAS curriculum and is committed to addressing issues of access and equity. The university has special admission consideration systems in place to accommodate pupils who have completed Grade 12 but do not fully meet the entrance requirements, it says.
This is to ensure no pupil is left behind, Unam says.
Executive director of education, arts and culture Sanet Steenkamp says alternative measures are in place for pupils who do not qualify for AS level or tertiary education.
“There are four options: Either children go to university, or they go to vocational training centres, or to work and apply while doing in-service training, and then of course there is the Namibian College for Open Learning, which is subsidised by the government,” she says.
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