By Staff Reporter
The new school curriculum for junior and senior secondary schools, which would have Grade 9 students sit for the Junior Secondary school examinations has kicked in and is causing chaos.
The new curriculum makes the Grade 9 certificate equivalent to the current Grade 10 certificate.
Teacher’s Union of Namibia (TUN’s) Mahongora Kavihuha says the education ministry is running experiments on learners, to the detriment of all parties involved. “The problem that we (teachers) are having, is the regrouping of the subjects and the re-organisation of the phases,” he says.
Until last year, Namibia had Grades 1 – 3 as the foundation phase, Grades 4 – 7 higher primary, and Grades 8 – 10 as junior secondary and Grades 11 and 12 as senior secondary, each with teachers trained for the specific phase.
“With the re-organisation of the phases,” Kavihuha continues, “some grades went down to a different phase, meaning that if a teacher was trained to teach up to Grade 7, and Grade 8 was brought down to Grade 7; that teacher will now have to teach Grade 8. The same applies for teachers who were trained to teach from Grade 8 – 10. There were teachers that specifically trained to teach at junior secondary level, but now that Grade 11 has been brought down to Grade 10, and the teacher will have to teach Grade 11.”
Learners who pass Grade 9 would now proceed to the ordinary Senior Secondary curriculum in Grade 10 with final examinations in Grade 11 for ordinary levels. That examination would bestow upon learners an ordinary school-leaving certificate with which they can enrol into tertiary institutions provided they pass with required marks.
Grade 12 would be another qualification on its own. Learners who have pass Grade 11 with a C symbol would enrol for the advanced level certificate being offered in Grade 12.
There are no longer high-level examinations for Grade 12.
“Adding to it all is the lack of materials,” Kavihuha contends. “The teacher was not trained to teach that grade and there is no sufficient material given to that person even to acquaint him- or herself (sic), to see how you can swing it. Meaning that the learner has become the experiment and that is what we are talking about. To make matter worse, the teacher to learner ratio is not of the best, classes are overloaded which means that the teacher has even less time for him or her to go and do more research and acquaint themselves with the new content.
This is very critical, not only in the secondary school but even at the primary school level because the resources coming from the regional offices are limited. Grade 8 has been added to primary school and new content was added, so what do you expect to happen?” he asks.
“The ministry has excuses of staffing models saying that apparently some schools are overstaffed, but the staffing model does not talk to the curriculum. They only think that there are thirty learners and there must be one teacher. Not knowing that there are thirty learners who have seven subjects. Those are the issues that the teachers have raised, even with the ministry, but you know how they are.
For now we have succeeded for the minister to withdraw the circular that says learners should not come back to formal education they should go and do whatsoever. We will continue to knock on their doors.”
In Grade 9, learners are on average 14 years old; thus a question arises whether such a student would be ready to enter part time education and they are too young to enter the job market in terms of the labour law.
Says Kavihuha, “they (learners) are not ready. It affects them very much because whatever affects the teacher automatically affects the learners. How are they grouped, how are the timetables drawn up, what time is allocated? And the content that suits their age. Imagine that a learner at Grade 11 now has to go out of the system permanently. How old is that learner, potentially? Will that learner be mature enough to handle life at university ? Other laws also come into it; labour laws also come into play and those are the things that we are raising.”
The unionist believes that the ministry is making these types of blanket changes based on “their political ego’s”.
“TUN is threatening to go into the streets,” he says. That is why they withdrew the circular because they knew that coming from TUN, we were going to act. So because things are being driven by political ego’s they are playing games; although at the end of the day they will come back to the drawing board. I don’t think that anybody has a clue about this curriculum. It was initiated by Dr Namwandi and Katrina (Hanse-Himarwa) came and found the process, and because according to her it was based on performance. Now they are left with the poor deputy minister who does not really understand and who was probably not part and parcel of those kinds of decisions.”
Kavihuha further laments the fact that the education ministry is considering KiSwahili to the school curriculum.
“KiSwahili is not one of the school subjects; the language is not listed in the current curriculum that is implemented. Now how are they going to introduce it? Are they going to amend the curriculum? Will they introduce KiSwahili outside the curriculum? What are the cost implications, when we don’t have even money in the country (sic)? Now they have the notion to say that Tanzania will give teachers; where are they going to accommodate those teachers and at which schools will they be based at? The impractical things are the ones that they (education ministry) want to make practical, and then later on it haunts them.”
Questions were sent to Deputy Executive Director in the Ministry of Basic Education, Edda Bohn who told us that the implementation of the curriculum has been in the pipeline since 2014. She says education will respond in time as it build the knowledge and skills for the future; a future that is ever-changing and unpredictable.
“This requires more refined skills from the future inhabitants of the global village. Educators at all levels always have their learners’ interests close at heart and so also their actions reach out for the greater good of the people. Change is the only definite thing in life and all of us need to embrace that fact. With this embrace and acceptance comes the questions to each one; namely as to how we react to change as that determines every following step thereafter.”
The ministry has made a call on educators to open up to the chain of events that marked this revised curriculum and start closing the gaps that were identified already ten years ago.
“At this juncture,” the Deputy ED concluded, “allow me to ask you to remember that ten years ago, part of the education and training improvement programme ETSIP, was even to introduce mathematics as a compulsory subject up to senior secondary level. Contrary to the outcry of those days, it is noteworthy that theh performance in mathematics since then has improved.”