Namibia Takes Giant Step For Free Education

The Namibia National Teachers Union (NANTU) has applauded the Ministry of Education for the giant step it has decided to take to provide free and compulsory education at primary level.

NANTU regional chairperson for the Erongo Region, Jonathan Tsuseb commended the Minister of Education, Dr. Abraham Iyambo for having taken this bold initiative. The union also urged the minister to introduce free compulsory education in phases to ensure all the thirteen regions are fully covered.

"The implementation process must also be closely monitored to ensure success," suggested Tsuseb. During a recent telephonic interview, Tsuseb said the planned free and compulsory education was long overdue and that he is indeed happy for all the countless Namibian children who will benefit.

He says careful planning and assessment also needs to be carried out by the education ministry, since many schools also funded their activities through the development funds to which parents contribute.

"The government should also calculate how much schools generate and what they are able to provide for themselves through the school development funds. The amount of N$50 million might sound a lot, but dividing it among all primary schools throughout the country might not be sufficient at all," said the NANTU office holder.

A single parent, Marlene Doeses, also expressed gratitude with the minister's bold decision.

"As a single parent I have been struggling to make ends meet to pay my children's school fees," she said, adding that she is currently raising four children all attending primary school and one that is at high school.

"For now, I can at least concentrate on saving a little of our income for their high school education. This was the best decision the minister ever made," said the single parent.

Some teachers to whom New Era spoke said they couldn't re-emphasize how much this would mean to parents who are already struggling to make ends meet. "As teachers we are aware of the difficulties many parents encounter when it comes to paying school fees," said one of the teachers interviewed by New Era.

However, others are of the opinion that the latest decision by the minister could see a huge influx of learners at coastal schools that are already under pressure to accommodate all learners enrolled to start school next year.

"This will now serve as motivation for many parents to enroll their children. We can expect larger numbers compared to previous years, but we have faith in our business community and trust that they will continue to invest in education," said one of the teachers.

NarravillePrimary Schoolprincipal, Paul Fischer believes education will never be entirely free, since parents will still have to buy additional materials to supplement their children's educational requirements.

"The fact that they can attend school freely is a very wise decision, but provision should also be made for supplementary educational materials that both teachers and learners may need. However, it is indeed one of the best decisions that was ever made by the government. The needs of schools should also be incorporated to make sure that the quality of education improves," Fischer said.

Referring to countries such as Botswana that provide free education up to university level, Fischer said that once Namibia takes up that example "it can only mean that our education system is on the right path."

Iyambo, the Minister of Education, made this major policy announcement last week saying free compulsory education would be provided to all primary school learners in Namibia in a move that has been lauded widely.

The new scheme aims to take poor and vulnerable children off the streets so that they can become productive citizens by the time they reach adulthood. The education ministry has made N$100 million available for this purpose, of which N$50 million has already been set aside for the current financial year.

He said the need for free education at primary level was mooted during a consultative meeting that took place between stakeholders in the education sector. In the current financial year Namibia spent N$9,4 billion on education compared to the N$8,6 billion allotted in 2011/2012.

Next year the ministry will receive N$9,8 billion, which is 23,6 percent of total government expenditure – the lion's share of the national budget – and this trend will continue for the next three years with a total of N$28 billion budgeted for the education sector.


The New Era

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The government of Namibia has been lauded for its bold decision to provide free education to all primary school learners