Forum to aid learners and teachers in Zambezi

Katima Mulilo: A group of professionals – mostly born and bred in the Zambezi Region – have formed a consultative forum to develop remedies and practical solutions to complement strategies initiated by the education directorate.

The formation of the forum comes in the wake of the dismal learner performance that has become a recurrent problem in the region, particularly at Grade 10 and 12 ordinary level.

The consultative forum, made up of 10 people, is chaired by Dr Audrin Mathe, the CEO of New Era Publications Corporation (NEPC). The forum met recently with teaching staff and management at Katima Mulilo to devise solutions to the challenges facing the sector.

According to Dr Mathe, the establishment of the forum was prompted by growing concerns over the state of education in the region, particularly the poor performance of learners in Grade 12, which resulted in the region ending up recently at the bottom of the national list of schools.

“A lot of people have been complaining that we shouldn’t be number last in terms of performance, but number one, as has been the tradition. We came here not as professionals but as people born in this region. We told our governor and director of education about this idea and they were all very receptive. We want to find common ground and restore our region’s honour,” Mathe stated.

He said the symposium would devise strategies aimed at aiding the regional authority in implementing workable solutions to achieve improved learner performance.

“We want to set the stage for a turn-around strategy. We would propose a remedial framework for intervention by schools and the regional authority. We want to promote workable management approaches, which would transform chronically under-performing schools, and identify measures aimed at attaining improved learning outcomes. We are not here to impose our recommendations, hence this dialogue,” he said.

Mathe also revealed that the forum is in the process of registering a trust that would reward good performance in schools, as well as assist best-performing learners from poor backgrounds to enter tertiary institutions.

“We have decided to register a trust, to be known as Zambezi Education Trust. It will reward excellence among teachers and learners. The same trust should be able to send the best learners from poor backgrounds to university. We, therefore, would like to appeal to everyone to donate to this trust. We must take charge and not look for solutions elsewhere,” Mathe said.

Zambezi Education Director Austin Samupwa bemoaned the poor state of school infrastructure as one of the main contributing factors to poor learner performance.

“You can’t believe when you see the conditions in which some of our learners and teachers find themselves. The school buildings and hostels are deplorable, particularly in flood-prone areas, such as Namiyundu,” Samupwa explained.

He debunked what he termed “misconceptions” that the region has been consistently underperforming, noting that rankings do not necessarily mean that the pass-rate has gone down, but depend on the overall performance of all regions in Namibia.

He supported this assertion by arguing that from 2004 to 2007 the pass-rate for Grade 10 had been below 50 percent and yet the region’s ranking was higher, solely because other regions’ pass-rates were more or less in the same range.

He pointed out that from 2008 to 2014 the pass-rate had improved from 50 percent, reaching an all-time high of over 59 percent in 2011, before declining to 53 percent over two consecutive years (2013 and 2014), a situation that has sparked alarm among teachers and parents in the region.

This trend was exacerbated by the same downward trajectory in Grade 12 ordinary level results, which dropped to last position in the national school rankings over the last two years.

In 2008 the region was positioned at number one in Grade 12 ordinary results. Recent Grade 12 higher grade results offered a glimmer of hope to educators though, as the region came in at number four nationally in the 2014 exams.

Samupwa accredited the region’s impressive performance in 2008 to an education conference that preceded the examinations that year, noting that remedial actions had been developed to improve learner performance.

“The regional conference we had in 2007 could have been a contributing factor to the good performance the following year. Another one was held in 2011 when we had a pass-rate of over 59 percent in Grade 10. Our concern has been particularly the Grade 12 ordinary level from 2013 and 2014. We’ve implemented continuous monitoring for Grades 10 and 12. We’ve had meetings with parents across the region and we’ve grouped Grade 10 and 12 learners during vacations to do their revision work,” Samupwa noted.

The Zambezi Region has set itself a target of a 65 percent pass-rate. For two consecutive years from 2013 to 2014 it has been unable to achieve the set benchmark. In terms of Grade 12 ordinary results the region was at the bottom of the list in 2013 and 2014.

Over the same period learners in the Zambezi Region, however, attained sixth and fifth positions nationally in the Grade 10 results and an impressive second and fourth position in Grade 12 higher grade.