[lg policy] Namibia: NGO calls for language policy review

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 15 16:01:21 UTC 2011

NGO calls for language policy review


AN overhaul of the current language policy in schools is needed to
address the failures in the education system.

A call was made by a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) to
consider mother-tongue instruction up to at least Grade 7 to solve the
crisis caused by the present policy. Research conducted by the Urban
Trust of Namibia recommended that the Ministry of Education should
“readdress the 1992 language policy to reflect the needs on the ground
after 20 years of independence and address the failures of the
education system that arise because the challenges of language are not
fully addressed by the current policy”.

It was found that “the challenge of the decision to use English as the
national language still deeply affects the levels of success in
education. Some of these difficulties relate to skills.”
Older teachers reported a higher proportion of pupils in their classes
with maths difficulties and younger teachers who are better trained or
received English-based training have fewer pupils with maths
difficulties, the research established.

“Language as an issue comes out throughout the research as a major problem.”
Researcher Priscilla Harris established that “the medium of
instruction used in schools is a major cause for concern which the
Government has overlooked”.

The transition from Afrikaans to English as medium of instruction at
Independence was made although only eight per cent of the population
are English speakers. “The rest of the population use their home
language and Afrikaans as the language of communication in their daily
lives,” the study found.
Moreover, teachers were not properly trained to make the adjustment
and pupils still bear the brunt of that, Harris states. She found that
“teachers were not ready, could not express themselves and were not
trained in English.”

Also, curriculum, syllabus and materials needed for a successful
outcome were not available. “Only Afrikaans materials were visible in
schools. Schools outside urban areas used home language in their
classes.” Although the policy “was essential to drive the strategic
decision for English in education. But this massive decision was made
without all the required resources being in place.” According to her,
in South Africa and Botswana, better success is achieved where
children learn in their home language. Recently, a leaked report
revealed that all but two per cent of Namibian teachers battle with


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