There’s a lack of classrooms for Grades 1 and 8, and parents run from school to school, looking for spaces for their children. Others complain bitterly about having to pay school fees, buying stationery and contributing to the school’s fundraising activities despite government having told them that school is for free.
At the beginning of every school year, we go through the same exhausting cycle.
The eternal lack of classrooms at the beginning of each school year is infuriating and concerning. It shows a lack of planning.
This paper reported this week that the Khomas region started a headcount so they can decide where to put the stragglers or increase the learner-teacher ratio, which is already ridiculous and unproductive in most cases.
No teacher should teach more than 25 children, but in some public schools, one teacher could be forced to teach up to 42 children, cramped up in one classroom.
This is unacceptable.
The uncertainty is caused, in part, by the so-called elite public schools picking and choosing the best performing learners and those whose parents would be able to pay school development funds and contribute to the never-ending list of requests for financial contributions.
Schools are also woefully underfunded. Officials will say they have disbursed this or that amount per child to regions and schools but principals will tell you what they get from government is short of what is needed for stationery, books and cleaning materials. Schools are massive operations – and to keep their wheels turning, they need money.
Lots of it, hence the aggressive fundraising activities by schools. We should not be surprised if schools soon put up shebeens in their yards to supplement their income.
They simply do not get enough from government. The politicians would say Namibia spends most of its budget on education but would cleverly leave out the fact that most of that money goes to salaries for the army of staff in that ministry, including administrators and consultants.
Most of the chaos we experience every year could easily be avoided by proper information gathering and putting the ministry in the 21st century by fully computerising their administrative systems.
In some instances, newly appointed teachers only get paid three months after they have been appointed.
It has gone on so long that we accept it as normal. It is not!
It is unfair, and entrenches young teachers in the cycle of poverty by throwing them into the clutches of cash loan companies.
Computerised systems could help to speed up processes, reduce labour, and help eliminate fraudulent activities such as the appointment of ghost teachers.
With the data available to the decision-makers, plans could be made easily and well in advance for those learners who are not picked up by the elite schools and fail to secure a space in the schools close to their homes.
Khomas, for example, has 48 primary schools, 31 secondary schools and six special schools.
It means more grade 8s enter the system every year than the region has space for. The region has known this for years. They have unfortunately not done much to overcome this hurdle.
There is no other solution but to build more high schools and the excuse of not having enough money is not good enough.
Graduate teachers sit at home; some learners fall through the cracks of an inefficient system. The only thing the ministry should do is to bring that together under one roof.
You had one job!
The Khomas region admitted that schools are overwhelmed by parents flocking there to look for space.
This should never happen if the ministry has its ducks in a row.
Let us not have the same struggles next year.