Namibian public education still haunted by lack of qualified teachers
By Lahja Nashuuta
Windhoek- The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture still is unable to attract qualified teachers mostly in public schools in rural Namibia.
The situation has forced education authorities to rely on unqualified teachers to fill the void, and this is blamed for the high failure rate in public schools.
Dr Lemmer High School in Rehoboth, 80km south of capital Windhoek, is among government schools that are challenged by teacher shortages, especially for English, mathematics, and science subjects for Grades 10 and 12.
With a population of more than 700 learners, there is only one teacher and the school principal who are qualified to teach mathematics and sciences at secondary level. The rest are Basic Education Teachers Diploma (BETD) holders that are qualified to only teach at primary and junior secondary level, school principal Patrick Britz told The Southern Times.
“This is a serious problem because our learners are being trained by teachers that are not qualified enough to teach them and we expect them to perform well at the end of the day. Like at my school, there is only one teacher who is a bachelor degree holder and she is really overcrowded with work,” Britz said.
Although school principals are tasked to manage day-to-day operations at their school, Britz said due to lack of qualified teachers, he is forced to juggle his managerial work with teaching physical science in Grade 12.
The school has no choice but is forced to use some teachers with teaching diplomas to teach the higher grades.
“These teachers are not qualified but the school management realised their potential and conclusions were made that if they were given an opportunity and training, they will deliver good results,” he said.
Education, Arts and Culture Hanse-Himarwa confirmed the dearth of qualified teachers that forced the ministry to heavily rely on unqualified and under-qualified teachers.
There are close to 4 000 unqualified and under-qualified teachers already in the Namibian public education system, the minister revealed to The Southern Times in an emailed response.
Despite budget cuts, the ministry remains the largest recipient of funds from the national budget, having been allocated R11, 96 billion for the 2017/18 financial year, with the bigger chunk spent on teacher salaries.
Available data from the ministry indicates that as of February 2016, there were 27, 886 teaching staff and 707, 878 learners in the Namibian public schools.
Britz is of the opinion that the implementation of free education that resulted in an increase in learners’ enrollment at schools has exacerbated the situation of lack of qualified teachers.
Experts have also blamed the government’s lack of oversight for putting more emphasis on a three-year basic education teaching diploma during the earlier years of independence. It was only later, when the government realised its oversight, that the country’s four teachers training colleges were merged with the University of Namibia, in an effort to improve teaching standards.
Since 2010, the four former colleges in Windhoek, Ongwendiva, Katima Mulilo and Rundu are now offering higher qualifications such as honours or master degrees in education.
“The Ministry of Education has been putting more emphasis on teaching diploma that only qualified teachers to teach up to Grade 10.
This resulted in a very few number of teachers that can teach at secondary level and most of them opt to go for private schools were remuneration is very high,” Britz emphasized.
Despite the challenge, Dr Lemmer High School has been among the best performing public schools in the country and every year the school ranks among the top 10 best performers in Grade 10 and 12.
Meanwhile, Minister Hanse-Himarwa said in an effort to improve teachers’ qualifications, the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture has teamed up with the University of Namibia, Namibia Institute for Education Development and Namibia College of Open Learning to train and retrain teachers as well as equipping them with the necessary skills.
In 2015 the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, through the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation requested the University of Namibia to develop an in-service programme for the unqualified and under-qualified teachers at the junior primary phase.
The National Qualification Framework Level six in-service diploma was launched last year, with the main target – the 4208 undertrained teachers.
The first intake of 1000 unqualified and underqualified teachers has attended vacation schools at different university’s regional campuses in 2016.