Namibia risks facing a shortage of teachers in the near future if it goes ahead with plans to increase the entry requirements for prospective teachers, teachers unions in the country warned.
There are currently over 27 000 teachers teaching at 1779 state schools. The number of unqualified and underqualified teachers in the country currently stands at 4028, these teachers are slated to undergo an intense national in-service training in May this year.
The unions rejected the proposal made recently by the education ministry to increase the entry points for teachers, adding that if the proposal is adopted the conditions of service for teachers needs to be overhauled completely as well.
Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa last week announced that aspiring teachers may soon be required to have obtained a certain number of points in Grade 12 even if they have a degree in education, for consideration as teachers.
“For you to qualify as a teacher; you must have 30 points from Grade 12, or we could give a minimum number of points to be reached for such positions”.
Vice-president of the Teachers Union of Namibia Matthew Haakuria urged the ministry to focus on upgrading the qualifications of the current batch of teachers in the system.
“The proposal is not the right solution as it may lead to the shortage of teachers in the country,” said Haakuria.
He further stated that should the requirements for teachers be increased to 30 points, those who qualify to the University of Namibia requirement points of 25 will be unemployed and will force them to engage in other things.
Haakuria called onto the ministry to make assessment of students who obtained 30 points and questioned whether the Ministry of Education made an assessment of teachers who are currently have 30 points.
“The Ministry of Education must first put programs, like giving the chance to teachers who currently holding diplomas to continue to degrees and master’s degrees by giving grants and bursaries,” Haakuria adds.
Sharing the same sentiments as his counterpart at TUN, Secretary General of the Namibia National Teachers Union Basilius Haingura, said if government wants competent teachers it should work on designing a quality training program for teachers.
“Government should make the teaching field attractive by paying teachers higher salaries than others in in the public service,” said Haingura during an interview with this newspaper earlier this week.
He further proposed that before the education ministry implements the proposal from the minister, thorough research must be done.
“This proposal might also lead to a shortage of teachers because students who obtain 30 points often opt to pursue other fields of study,” Haingura said.
Hanse-Himarwa explained that teachers will undergo a four-year diploma programme in education.
The overall programme will run for eight years, with the enrolment of 1 000 teachers every year depending on the number of unqualified teachers detected in the system after the first four years.
“After this training, Christmas will be over. We want to professionalize education so that only those qualified and have the interest of Namibian children at heart are allowed to be teachers.
“We do not want education to be a dumping ground for people who failed somewhere or those who are just working for money,” she explained at the time.
Hanse-Himarwa noted that for this training, the ministry will only take teachers who have been in the system for one year.
She said this year 35 unqualified teachers from Erongo will be registered for the programme.
The minister noted that her main priority areas which are part of her performance agreement are infrastructure development and teacher training.
She acknowledged the lack of classrooms, dilapidated school buildings, and the need to build more schools and teachers’ accommodation facilities across the country.
By Shoki Kandjimi
Additional reporting by NAMPA