… Striving towards equitable, quality education for sustainable development and Vision 2030
By Andreas Amesho
ARTICLE 20 of the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia makes provision that every person shall have right to education, and that primary education shall be free and obligatory for children up to the age of 16.
The Government of the Republic of Namibia, through the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, has made significant improvements in providing equitable and quality education within the country’s 27 years of independence.
However, the Namibian education system still faces many stumbling blocks, including high repetition and dropout rates, inequality in the provision of quality education, quality of teachers and schools in rural and urban areas, as well as a lack of skills development among teachers, in order to transform education to the expected level of academic attainment.
It is a well-known fact that many of our schools still obtain very poor results and are not giving our children the required skills for a globalised and knowledge-based society. Hence, we find ourselves in social and economic circumstances that are hostile to good education, whereby too many children are hampered in their learning, because of extreme poverty, an imbalance in attaining equitable and quality education, which is now being worsened by HIV/AIDS and extreme, diverse issues in the education system.
Diversity in education refers to the range of identities that exist in a group of people. When discussing diversity in Namibian education, we refer to common categories, which include but are not limited to, race, social and economic class, religion and disability, just to mention a few.
Simply put, diversity in education represents a wide range of ideas and initiatives to create a conducive learning environment, which is safer, inclusive, and more importantly, equitable, for as numerous identities as possible.
According to UNESCO (2008), “Inclusive education should be seen as a process of strengthening the capacity of the education system to reach out to all learners. Therefore, it is an overall principle that should guide all educational policies and practices’, starting from the belief that education is a fundamental human right and the foundation for a more just society.”
There are misconceptions roaming around in our midst, whereby people use multiculturalism and diversity synonymously, while these concepts have distinctive meanings and should not be confused as such.
Multiculturalism has got to do with the understanding and acceptance of ethnic cultures, within diverse societies, while diversity is concerned with a wide range of identity categories, including ethnic cultures. Given the above, let us now try to look at the diversity in education and how the education policies address the issues of diversity in education in Namibia.
Valuing diversity through education, and the children who learn together, means that they also learn to live together principles, and this is supposed to be the order of the day in our schools, as per the ministry’s Sector Policy on Inclusive Education (2013).
This policy serves as a catalyst for attaining accessible, equitable and sound education for all via efficiency, democracy and solid advocacy for lifelong learning. In other words, the policy is responsive to Article 20 of the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia and UNESCO (2008).
We are now challenged with the current practice of some schools in Namibia, which are still practising the principle of segregation, instead of integration and inclusive principles.
It is a well-known fact that many of our schools are in remote areas, with a high number of vulnerable children, including those with disabilities and marginalised children from previously disadvantaged societies.
Even with government efforts to build schools and hostels to accommodate those children, the School Feeding Programme and free primary education, the issue of diversity in our education system is still a big concern.
Despite the challenges faced by all in education sector, it is worthwhile also to acquaint ourselves, as educators, with some benefits that diversity may hold for our schools.
Having more diversity in educational settings helps prepare students and staff to interact with each other on a global scale.
Diversity also increases a learner’s cultural awareness, and their satisfaction with friends and colleagues, which helps to maximise their potential and talents, by them making contributions to schools, as organisations.
Since diversity is a collection of cross-racial diverse backgrounds, it stimulates inter-groups that bring learners together to discuss racial issues and to participate fully in multicultural and multilingual events.
Learners who interact with diverse learners, in and out of the classroom environment, are motivated and better able to participate in a heterogeneous and complex society.
This article serves to create awareness at school leadership level, so that they refrain from segregation principles, and embrace integration and inclusive education principles.
Segregation practices take us nowhere, and hamper our learners from mingling with learners from diverse societies, when they are supposed to share knowledge and skills, for sustainable development.
*Andreas Amesho is a Master of Education student at the International University of Management (IUM) Ongwediva Campus
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