The education ministry’s haphazard decision to slash the funds spent per pupil as well as to close schools a week earlier has exposed the ministry to claims that the ministerial authorities are running the sector like a shebeen.The two decisions sound impressive at first, especially when one considers the precarious economic climate in the country, but when you analyse it deeper you realise that the planning machinery of those charged to lead the ministry is in shambles.The ministry made it public that spending per secondary school pupil will be slashed from N$500 to N$250 while at primary school level the funding will be cut from N$350 to N$250. This pronouncement clearly vindicates those who warned government that the introduction of free education was done at the wrong time.
For years government has pumped billions into the education sector but the desired results are yet to materialize. It is high time we start looking at those leading the administration apparatus of the ministry. The idea to introduce free education was a noble one considering the fact that many parents struggle to fulfill their obligations when it comes to school fees, but truth be told, government was not ready to carry the whole weight on its own.This is the story of free education in Namibia and a classic Piketty example of how state strategies, sometimes unintentionally but more often intentionally, privilege the elite.What is paradoxical in Namibia is that we are privileging the elite under the banner of a pro-poor policy.
Namibia inherited an education system that was dominated by racial segregation and different types of curricula for the various races namely Europeans, Asians, Arabs and Africans, UNESCO, (2005). The colonial schools had a different curriculum from that of the African independent and the 65 missionary schools. The achievement of independence heightened pressure to increase the school population and a rapid more towards universal primary education. The purpose of education was political, social, cultural, humanistic and economic, (UNICEF & World Bank, 2009). It was expected that the education sector would mould a whole individual who will contribute profitably to society.Since the introduction of free primary education, the implementation of the program was faced with a number of glaring challenges that required to be addressed. These included late disbursement of funds and study material, lack of qualified teachers and a lack of teaching facilities.
Government’s policy to achieve Universal Primary Education (UPE) has to be seen within developments in the wider international context. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, declared that “everyone has a right to education.” The World Conference on Education for All (EFA), held in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990, sparked off a new impetus towards basic education especially with its so-called vision and renewed commitment. It noted, that to serve the basic needs for all, requires more than a recommitment to basic education as now exists. What is needed is an expanded vision that surpasses resource levels, institutional structures, curricula and conventional delivery systems, while building on the best in the practices.
Closing schools earlier
The decision to end the school term earlier than planned is surely one that is welcomed by learners, after all, this means they get to enjoy a longer holiday. But from a parental view, the decision was wrong no matter how you look at it. Parents were not informed on time and schools were forced to change their calendar.For parents with kids living in hostels, planning is key. Some parents have to make transport arrangements to get their kids from the hostel while others have to apply for leave to drive out of town to collect their children schooling in another town. Some schools still had examination papers scheduled. Were all these elements considered when this haphazard decision was taken?It is important to know when the decision was taken and why it was only communicated to the public now.If the decision was only taken this week, then the Ministry is telling us that its planning systems are not able to plan weeks or months ahead considering the resources at its disposal.