Discipline key to rural schools’ success

> Magreth Nunuhe

WINDHOEK – RURAL schools in Namibia have been outperforming urban schools for the past few years and this has been attributed mainly to discipline, motivation, teamwork and dedication.

Given the results, some parents are at odds in deciding whether to send their children to rural schools and forego the privileges of urban schools where learners have easy access to infrastructures like public libraries and ICT resources.

For 2016, schools in the northern four regions (dubbed the 4 “O” regions) in Oshikoto, Oshana, Omusati and Ohangwena dominated the performance rankings in Grade 10, followed by schools in the north-eastern regions of Kavango East, Zambezi and Kavango West to make up the list of the seven best performing regions.

In contrast, urban schools in regions like Khomas (central), Erongo (West), //Karas and Hardap (south) fell among the worst performers last year for the Grade 10 examinations.

While Grade 12 results show a somewhat mixed picture for the urban schools in terms of performance, disheartened parents and educationists blame the under-performance of learners in urban settings on social distractions, such as learners hanging out at shopping malls after school, weekend night clubbing, use of drugs and uncontrolled use of technological devices such as cellphones.

Idris Simasiku, a teacher in Keetmanshoop in the southern part of Namibia blames the failure rate in the region on poor discipline, saying that children in the central and south suffer from an “overdose of freedom”.

“I have had the opportunity to teach in the north, central and now south. The trend however in behaviour among learners in the south and central is the same. I do not want to talk about parents because those who have children that need serious intervention seem hijacked by their own children,” Simasiku reckoned.

He said that the northerners camp around schools during exams, and while schools in Omaheke Region (east) and the south have better infrastructure, exposure brings all sorts of detractors.

“Simple initiatives by school management such as study sessions do not enjoy support from parents and learners alike. Schools that have hostels perform slightly better than those without because study sessions are compulsory. It’s all about the right attitude,” maintained Simasiku.

Chriz Ya Mwatukange, a parent based in capital Windhoek, shared Simasiku’s sentiments, saying that discipline is key and rural schools instil this better in comparison to urban schools.

“Remember corporal punishment was not replaced by any effective discipline measures at schools. Schools in cities and towns perform poorly as learners are aware of their rights.

“Teachers and community members can’t discipline them in any form. They will call the police in a second and the teacher or community member can be locked up. In the rural setup, any community member can discipline any child when they do something wrong,” added Ya Mwatukange.

Jason du Plessis, a learner who wrote his Grade 12 exams last year at Erundu Combined School in Oshakati in the Oshana region, said he could attest to the commitment in northern schools.

“From my experience in the north, being one of the learners that got really high points, I can confidently say that it is our teachers. My teachers went out of their way to help us. We got notes, motivation, everything we needed. If I had to thank someone for how I did, it would be my mother and my teachers at Erundu SSS. Without them, I would never have achieved anything,” he said proudly.

Urban schools are well placed to outperform their rural counterparts due to better infrastructure and learner teacher ratio, but while they do better in languages, they fail dismally in content subjects due to lack of commitment and dedication.

Michael Lameka, a water technician at the harbour town of Lüderitz in //Karas region, took a swipe at the labour system, saying that many parents at the southern town spent nights working in fish factories, leaving their children unsupervised

“How do you expect children to pass? Who do you think is taking care of the children if parents don’t even get rest? Factories must be regulated and people must just work from 08h00 to 18h00 to fulfil their parental duties,” he argued.

Vetaruhe Kandorozu, the Councilor of the Okakarara Constituency in the Otjozondjupa Region (central northern Namibia), said that he was generally satisfied with the performance for Grade 10 as three out of the five schools in his area managed to perform above 50 percent.

“So far we don’t have plans to reshuffle principals. We need to apply some strategies until we exhaust them,” he enthused.

Of the candidates that set for the Grade 10 examinations, only 21,291 passed, representing a 55.7 percent pass rate, a slight increase from the 54.2 percent pass rate achieved in 2015.

Minister of Education Katrina Hanse-Himarwa hinted that the number of candidates qualifying for admission to Grade 11 in 2017 might increase to approximately 24,291 because part-time candidates build up subject credits over a couple of years and normally meet the admission requirement to Grade 11 only after a number of years.

While much blame is placed on indiscipline and lack of parental control, teachers are also blamed for lack of commitment, which in turn leads to poor performance.

However, Namibia National Teacher’s Union (NANTU) secretary general, Basilius Haingura, said that teamwork is needed which involves parental support and teachers’ commitment.

“It is not a one-way street. Monitoring and evaluation is also lacking in our urban schools. Assessment must be conducted throughout the year,” he said. Dimbulukweni Nauyoma, secretary-general of the Namibia National Student Organisation (NANSO) said that they were now busy formulating new methods to motivate learners to perform better in all regions.

“It has been difficult to enter schools to motivate learners because we first have to write to the Director of Education a month in advance before we can visit a school,” he pointed out, moaning that the Namibian education system was not living up to expectations.

January 2017
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