A number of schools in Windhoek are seeing classrooms with about 50 learners for every teacher.
The education ministry had in the beginning of the academic year issued a circular to schools directing them to ensure that all eligible learners are admitted, despite the fact that schools are already overcrowded. Namibia has less than 2 000 primary and secondary schools for over 700 000 learners.
The reopening of schools last week was met with commotion and disruption as numerous parents scrambled in search for space for their children. Office blocks were filled with long queues, with most parents in search of placement for grades one and eight.
“The government needs to plan accordingly. There is a lack of infrastructure in regard to the number of learners we have in the country,” Loide Shaanika, the secretary general of the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu), said.
Shaanika urged the education ministry to look at building more schools and added that classrooms are simply not enough to cater for the growing number of children who need space every year. She further stressed that the overcrowding of classrooms also reduces the quality of education.
The education ministry’s deputy executive director, Edda Bohn, said it is mind-boggling how parents scramble for space in the beginning of the year as the ministry plans well in advance to avoid this. Parents apply for placement at schools as of May and schools provisionally accept learners until the second half of the year when results are out and learners are given a final response. By the second half of the year, learners who have not received placement are then taken to the regional office for assistance with placement.
“By the end of a particular academic year, all learners who applied in good time should be placed,” she said.
Bohn said the main challenge with placement is that parents apply to five different schools for one learner and it could be that all five schools accept the learner, so then there are five places occupied by one learner. Bohn added that this causes a lot of commotion when parents do not reach out to the other remaining schools to let them know that the child will no longer be occupying the space. Bohn highlighted that schools need to keep the places of learners it has accepted for at least 15 days during the start of an academic year.
Bohn added that urbanisation has also vastly contributed to the lack of placement in urban schools as parents who move to these areas approach schools with more than they can occupy and too late.
While parents rush and search for space for learners in urban areas, Bohn said there are schools in rural areas that have become underpopulated and deserted. Ekaha Primary School was forced to close due to low enrolment in 2020.
Meanwhile, the former mayor of the City of Windhoek, Job Amupanda, via a tweet also urged the ministry to build more schools in order to deal with the growing number of learners and to provide employment opportunities for unemployed teachers.
“It’s obvious that building more schools will solve the double problem of children without space and teachers without jobs,” he tweeted.