[lg policy] The continual trashing of Namibian teachers

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 18 13:57:29 UTC 2011

The continual trashing of Namibian teachers - by Simataa Silume

			The continual trashing of Namibian teachers
17 Nov 2011
WINDHOEK - Oh yes…the author wonders if there is any Namibian who can
contest “it is only a foolish general who sends a soldier to the
battle ground with a gun he hardly knows how to use”. The author
definitely fails to put sense on the general and decides to salute the
combatant who has been made to believe he could operate the machine
planted in his hands by his “no nonsense superior”.

The soldier went through rigorous and strenuous training and, at the
end of it all, was told the training was successfully over and a token
to demonstrate possession of such skills given to him. Surely, the
warrior is compelled to storm the war front without fail!  The author
sees it fit to liken the above scenario to the demeaning publicity the
Namibian teacher has been subjected to in some local newspapers.

The author can only hope the rampant reporting was a “public relations
disaster” from the side of the local papers, and if so, a word of
apology could be enough to quell the sarcastic gesture portrayed by
the reporters. Oh yes…that was total devilish talk by reporters who
cannot read and write. The teacher saw it fit to create this written
discourse to make reporters look back and understand that proper
research needs to be carried out before deceiving the whole nation
through ill-informed and indecorous reporting.

Unless the definition of the lexicons “read and write” have been
tampered with, to report that Namibian teachers cannot read and write
means either someone at newspapers refused to take common sense or did
not follow what the teacher taught him/her at school.

Surely, there is no way a teacher can just lie down and take this kind
of uneducated reporting. Look fellow citizens…the teacher goes to
school and does well in his/her secondary education to secure
admission with the local institutions of higher learning.

Admission is granted on condition that grade 12 results demonstrate
the aspirant teacher could carry out a course taught in English. The
teacher goes on to graduate and a kiss from the Nation’s Father is
enough to see him off to the “battle ground”.

The harsh realities the teacher encounters out there prove quite a
challenge and heavy casualties are incurred. The very institution that
saw him off to schools carries a study that informs the nation,
“Namibian teachers cannot read and write English’’.

The two bigger questions the author asks are how could an illiterate
student manage to attain an academic qualification? And the second one
is, who is deceiving who? The teacher suffers immeasurable criticism
for bad performance by learners in schools. Imagine the grumbles and
evil glares teachers suffered that very morning of vacuous nonsensical

Ok…the author can choose to agree with the report that teachers cannot
read and write English, but who will then speak him out of the belief
that the founding fathers of this education system cannot read and
write English too?

The University of Namibia could then be said to have deceived the
author into believing that he had qualities to teach, reading and
writing in English. How about what all those teaching practices
aspirant teachers go through under their guidance? Are those
activities not enough to provide opportunities for the staff of that
institution to realise that the teacher they are sending away will not
be competent enough to use English as the medium of instruction?

This kind of research is simply designed to divert attention from
weird conditions and wayward learners this education system has
created in schools. It is “cut and paste” research activities that
only seek to anglicise Namibian teachers and make them better writers,
speakers and readers of the English language. Comrades…the whole
endeavor is tantamount to linguistic imperialism.

The activity seeks to promote English at the expense of local
languages. It is appropriate to describe it as a transformation of
racism into “linguicism”, indeed a practice just so reminiscent to
“linguistic apartheid”. The author cannot help but feel pity for the
speakers of native languages whose linguistic rights will be crashed
by this kind of research.

The author finds it difficult to believe that the nation can direct
all this effort on these self-defeating research endeavours. When will
we start thinking about standardising native languages and create an
environment where parallel competence in English and native languages
is promoted?

It is puzzling that freedom fighters have, all of a sudden, forgotten
the language rights of speakers of local languages and have embarked
on activities bound on exterminating the languages of the indigenous

The Namibian nation has all of a sudden become a UK-US employee,
enlisted to see the creation of “the union of the English-speaking
people throughout the world’’.

The author, being a teacher, understands that Namibian teachers of
other subjects, other than English, do not need further training in
the English language and all they need are skills to incorporate local
languages in trying to ram home the message.

Remember, as Ngugi wa Thiong’o rightly sees it in Decolonising the
mind, there can be no democracy where a whole people have been denied
the use of their languages, where they have been turned strangers in
their own country (1998: 90,92). The Ministry of Education needs to
create a language-friendly environment. I mean an environment where
English is not considered a sole medium of instruction and a vehicle
to better performance.

The author here bemoans the establishment of a language policy that
ensures linguistic equality and enables all to exercise their
linguistic human rights and the English language used additively. The
author resents research activities, done by Unam or the Ministry of
Education, resolved on abandoning multiculturalism and multilingualism
while promoting solitary assimilation and learning of the English

The author expects the University of Namibia to take a professional
lead in creating the infrastructure for addressing language policy
issues. It is time the nation’s standpoint in its quest for the
perfect language policy was defined. The endeavour to see all teachers
attain absolute proficiency in English constitutes a threat to
cultural diversity and linguistic vitality.

It is suicidal to assume that English can be disconnected from the
power and powers behind it: English being disembedded from national
cultures can never mean it floats culture-free or is culturally free.
The nation should not be cajoled into believing that English is
neutral and that learning English has got nothing to do with cultural
identity of its native speakers. The idea of giving false hope to the
nation that every teacher needs to be proficient in English to improve
performance is unethical and tantamount to mass deception indeed.

Teachers are now expected to undertake training to improve their
skills in English regardless of what subject they teach in school…Oh
Lord, what a sheer waste of time and resources. The British Council
can as well close offices and go back home, for this country has
decided to take up the role of Englishisation endeavours of its people
and advance British interests and English at the “linguicide” (death
of a language) of its native languages.

The attention of the nation should be called to the advice by Hoglin
(2002) that increasing use of English in scholarship and technology,
in higher education, the business world and the media, suggests that
there are strong risks of domain loss in local languages, leading to
less efficiency in thought, expression and communication as well as
lower prestige for the national languages.

The author has no problem with the requirement that a teacher should
be competent in the medium of instruction but to conclude that English
incompetence among teachers is to blame for poor performance is simply
not convincing.

The University of Namibia could be guilty of adopting academic
fallacies employed by linguistic imperialists that the more English is
taught, the better the results (Phillipson 1992). How does one
determine the level of English competence, for instance, a mathematics
teacher requires to enhance performance? To report the current level
of competence as inadequate calls for proper back up to convince these
committed citizens. For now, the author strongly believes this is an
excuse by desperate institutions on an exploration for poor
performance scapegoats.

So what if the Ministry of Education and Unam are behind the study?

This is simply designed to scare off teachers and all interested
parties, for the two institutions are seen to be the custodians of
education in this country. Who has the mettle to contest the ideas
brought up by an institution that boasts the presence of professors
and doctors on its team of staff?

Research on how the lack of disciplinary measures impacts on
performance in schools calls for the intervention of the aforesaid
institutions at this point in time.

The nation should start thinking about what should be done to motivate
teachers to stay the course other than try to embarrass them and
expect improved performance.

Complete Machiavellian strategies where ends render the means
unquestionable are not welcome in any democracy. Sending them to
schools and then question their linguistic competence is just so
reminiscent of an “army general” who sends a fighter to the forefront
knowing he cannot use the weapon he handed over to him.



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