“Training teachers is vitally important” - Hanse-Himarwa

06 October 2017 Author   JACKIE ASHEEKE
World Teachers’ Day highlights educators and cheers their achievements.
Education, the cornerstone of growth and development, needs vibrant, committed and well-trained teachers or it will never work.  Teachers with clear goals, plans, insights, passion and vision steer learners to success.  
In a May 2017 interview with the Windhoek Observer Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa gave some important insights on current programs for training teachers.  She also spoke of their vital role in educating young Namibian minds.
Below are some of the Minister’s comments on teacher training in Namibia and the vital role of qualified teachers in shaping the minds of young students.
Minister Hanse-Himarwa said:
“Quality education is sustainable development goal #4 of the United Nations and it requires that I provide quality, accessible, equitable and lifelong education.  This is an international goal; a United Nations goal.  Namibia is not an island in this world and we need to address international concerns.  Quality education must be provided.  But, how do you provide quality education with unqualified and underqualified, unskilled and untrained teachers?  Therefore, I believe strongly that there is an urgent need for me to train teachers to make it a priority under my performance agreement to train teachers.
This is a flagship project for me.  I am a former teacher myself and I know the value of training for educators.  Since I was a governor, I also followed this issue of teacher training. I engaged the Ministry of Higher Education and UNAM with this issue. I have 4000 unqualified and underqualified teachers in the pre-primary and primary phase which is the most critical foundational formative educational years for a child.  If you spoil their learning there, you spoil it throughout their progress in the system.  You condemn their education forever. 
It is in primary and pre-primary that we have the largest pool of underqualified and unqualified teachers and yet, they are there, teaching these open, bright young learners.  They, themselves are not qualified, but these teachers are there, working with the learners, moulding people.  What kind of damage is being done?   Can you imagine how much better the education of our children will be if they were qualified and better trained?
It is like a house.  If you engage an unqualified builder to lay your foundation or people that you just get from the street to build that house, what sort of house will you end up with?  What will the educational foundation for these kids actually be when the teachers are improperly prepared to teach?
We don’t have a huge pool of qualified teachers standing on the side-lines that we can just send in and say ‘go do this work.’  And yet, we have the responsibility to form, mould and teach a young person who is supposed to grow up and develop into someone who can contribute in the future to the well-being and strength of the country.  These children are future doctors, professionals, and workers of tomorrow.  The foundation we give them today is vitally important.
I always say to the teachers when you are the classrooms and teaching, do it with care, passion and love.  Because you don’t know -that little one in your classroom today, who is looking up to you- no one knows what great things they will accomplish tomorrow.  That young one in your classroom may be a doctor in the future who could can save your life.  You must educate these young people, invest in them with their potential futures in mind.
Once you have spoiled the early education of a young child, you could have spoiled the future president, doctor or engineer or builder to-be, you don’t know what the future of a child could be. Teachers must teach as if they are preparing their own future.  That is the greatness of basic education.
In working with UNAM on the problem of training the thousands of un- and underqualified teachers in the system, I noted that since UNAM has closed all the technical colleges and merged with them, then they are responsible to fill that gap.  Personally, I wish the training colleges were still in existence.  I would re-open the teacher’s colleges so that we can train more teachers.  Currently, the cohort that graduate from UNAM are not satisfying the full demand for education throughout the country and we are facing staffing shortfalls.
But, these current 4000 underqualified and unqualified teachers we have in our very sensitive pre-primary and primary education are there.  What is the solution?  They have these young children at the most important formative levels of their education.  So what should we do?  Chase away these 4000 teachers into the street? And then what – shall we worsen the situation by throwing people and their teaching experience away?
If we do chase them away, then who replaces them?  There is a shortage of qualified teachers. We must fix the problem and train these unqualified people by providing short courses.   
I was told that UNAM does not provide diploma courses, only degree courses. And yet, we have this real problem.  We cannot fix the problem by putting these 4000 teachers into degree programs.  Many of these teachers have barely grade 10 or grade 12 and experience only; they are not prepared for full degree courses.
Providing them diploma courses is the solution.  It was a tough negotiation.  Some accused me of lowering standards. But, I said, this is the reality.  I need to make my plans based on the reality that exists on the ground. In the future, those who are willing/able can pursue degree courses.  But for now, with the needs we have now, the capacity, quality and abilities are at the diploma level.  UNAM agreed and we created special tailor-made diploma programs only for this group of 4000 existing teachers. 
In 2016, we had the first intake of 1000 teachers into this special diploma program at UNAM.  It is a four-year program.   In May, 2017, the second 1000 entered the program, in 2018 the next 1000 will enter and so on.  As time goes, I can achieve training for the 4000. 
While training at UNAM, they have e-learning, mentors and holiday face-to-face classes.  They continue teaching DURING this training.  Going forward, there will be no situation with someone with a grade 10 and grade 12 with teaching experience and not have access to this program.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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