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The St Boniface formula will do

15 January 2016
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The announcement of the Grade 12 results by Education, Arts and Culture Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa on Wednesday calls for a lot of reflection on the part of the ministry, as well as teachers, parents and most importantly the students.

This comes as the country’s pass rate plummeted as only 6,056 students out of 47,832 that sat for the October/November 2015 exam qualified for admission to university.

The figure, which is a 19.6 percent decline from the 2014 figure of 7,536, finds us asking what could have gone wrong.

For those of us who were privileged to have had a glimpse of her statement , what we found so peculiar was how the ministry first decided to give us the so-called good news about its achievements, only to hit us the with the bad news somewhere towards the end.

Although it is good spin by those that wrote the statement, leaving the hard truth towards the end does not change the sad truth that our education system is in crisis.

Worst still, splitting the performance of government and private schools - a move which did not go down well with one of the school heads during the briefing – was maybe done to hide the sad truth about how government-run education institutions really perform head-to-head.

This strategic move by the Education Ministry also does not take away the fact that we have a serious problem on our hands.

Worst still, if nine of the top 10 best students in the country come from a private school - St Bonifice - then no matter how much you try to bury the dirt, it always has a way of finding its way to the top.

What now needs to be done is for government to come up with a long-term solution to avoid a repeat of this, otherwise the country will find itself with a growing population of unemployed and unskilled youth - putting a further burden on an already strained government, as it becomes its responsibility to fend for them, since they will not have the means to eke out a living.

Our advice to Hanse-Himarwa is that she should take a leaf out of St Bonifice’s book and learn how the school continues to churn out the best results year after year.

Besides reading about it in the media, she should humbly take her staff and engage authorities at the school , with a hope that its formula - premised on discipline and hard work - can also be instilled among thousands of students who are part of the education system, to forg a future ahead.

We do not have qualms about the introduction of free primary and secondary education.

Although a welcome development, it has to have been well-thought-out, so that it does not only make more Namibians literate, but actually produces educated students.

The student to teacher ratio has increased - worsening an already bad situation, with a teacher finding him or herself dealing with more students than before, impacting on their performance.

Granted, the country is faced with a critical teacher shortage, but should the Education Ministry not have planned for this?

Former Minister of Education, the late Abraham Iyambo warned as far back as 2012 that Namibia will face a shortfall of 3,194 primary and 1,859 secondary school teachers in the next three years.

Now we ask, what was done then, considering that we now find ourselves with failing students and no teachers.

The ministry’s chorus remains one of blaming the shortage of teachers for dismal student performances, but has it ever taken time to think that maybe it’s not the cook but the ingredients that are not up to scratch?

Someone has to take ownership of the mess, before it further gets out of hand. There is no time for playing blame games.

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