May 21, 2015, 8:55am
The University of Namibia (Unam) student representative council (SRC) has come strongly against Minister of Education, Arts and Culture Katrina Hanse-Himarwa’s remarks that government made a mistake by abolishing colleges of education across the country and incorporating them with Unam.
Early this month, Hanse-Himarwa asserted it was a mistake to incorporate the colleges into Unam during her budget contribution to the education ministry and avowed to fight to bring back the colleges.
“We made a mistake to do away with teachers’ training colleges … they must be addressed and restored. I stand for the reintroduction of BETD because it has provided us with good teachers,” she said at the time.
The Basic Education Teaching Diploma (BETD) was phased out in 2012 and BETD holders were instructed to upgrade to a Bachelor Education degree.
The action led to many prospective teachers not meeting the cut due to Unam’s stringent admission requirements.
Unam SRC yesterday said the minister’s remarks cannot be left unchallenged, while describing it as “deceitful, malicious, and misplaced” in light of the county’s quest to build a knowledge economy.
The Unam SRC President, Vincent Shimutwikeni, argued on behalf of other students that even before the BETD was abolished and colleges merged with Unam, there was a public outcry that the programme was too shallow and lacked content.
The students said it was long ago when the World Bank rated Namibia badly in learners’ ability to read and write.
Adding that the report indicated that learners go up to junior secondary education without any basics in literacy skills.
“Such problems were an obvious result of poor teaching caused by, among others, BETD college graduates as well as under-qualified teachers. Further, it should be known that the BETD was imported from the Scandinavian countries where an ordinary primary school teacher must have at least a Master’s degree in primary teaching. This is becoming a common trend in developed countries and other countries where the World Bank rated literacy abilities by learners favourably,” the students expressed.
Shimutwikeni said evidence to the fact that the programme was too shallow could be read in newspaper adverts for lecturer recruitment where people with the same level of BETD were asked to apply to teach on the same programme.
This, he said, obviously defeats Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA) and National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) requirements that a person teaching on a programme must be at least a level above that of the programme in which they teach.
Compounding the crisis, the students say were the extremely dilapidated infrastructure at all colleges, which did not match any reasonable standards for higher learning.
They feel because of the merger, they noted with great interest the development Unam satellite campuses have brought to the livelihood of communities.
They also feel the transformation of BETD for both primary and upper primary has strengthened the quality of teaching in both depth in content and methodology.
“This is so because of the qualification framework for registration and the lecturers that are teaching are now Masters’ degree holders as required by NQA and NCHE. The merger allowed the university to develop and extend some of its programmes to the doorsteps of poor people that live in peripheral areas of the country. This has not only created access to higher education by our poor folks, but has also made higher education cheap and extremely affordable for those who cannot get accommodation and transport to university,” he further stated.
Against this background, students say they find the minister’s statement “not only harmful to current academic development of our teachers, but also reckless, a proposition that is anti-degree”.
Moreover, they said the minister should understand that only when primary education is academically entrenched and solidified could Namibia do away with the scourge of learner failure at both Grade 10 and 12.
They urged the education minister to dwell on finding financial resources for students to study on the Unam programme and engaging the institution to recommend incorporating what “she wants to see on the teacher education programme instead of dismantling what stakeholders together with NQA have worked so hard to put together”.