Tamara Webb, a current WorldTeach volunteer in Keetmanshoop, Namibia, shares her thoughts on basic teacher training.
The Namibian BETD graduates of 2010
Ever since Namibia's independence in 1990, education reform has been a top priority. Education spending consistently represents the largest percentage of the budget; yet, many obstacles to quality education remain. The reform process is consciously a gradual one. Teacher education and equitable distribution of qualified teachers are two areas that constantly receive attention. The presence and expansion of the role of WorldTeach volunteers in Namibia speak to these facts. WorldTeach volunteers are typically placed in areas, mainly rural areas, where there is a severe shortage of willing and qualified teachers for the number of learners needing to be served. Also, whereas WorldTeach began as providers of English language teachers, WorldTeach Volunteers can now be found teaching across the broad curriculum, and in special placements such as mine.
According to a United Nations report, "the situation at Namibian independence was that 36% of the nation's 13,000 teachers had no professional training." 10 years later, the government reported improvement, with just about 15% of the nation's teachers lacking formal teacher training. One glaring problem, however, is the distribution of the qualified teachers around the country. In 2001, the Kavango Region in the north, for example, reported that over 30% of their teaching staff were unqualified.
One tool designed to help bring current teachers to standard is the Basic Education Teacher Diploma (BETD) In-Service Education for Teachers program. It is a comprehensive, four-year professional development initiative for unqualified and underqualified teachers in Namibia's primary and secondary schools. This week, I was able to witness the formal culmination of their work, their graduation.
The BETD INSET graduation was a very nice and regal affair, which went on without any noticeable hitch or problem. I was the DJ, so the music was especially enjoyable - Hugh Masekela, the Mahotella Queens, LadySmith Black Mambazo, Bob Marley, Bill Withers, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, Classical symphonic orchestras (not sure from where), and Michael Jackson (by huge request), to name a few. Someone even asked for my card and whether or not I did weddings; iPods do magic! Missing were the invited governors, mayors, and politicians, but their absence did not cast any shadow over the excitement and pride felt by graduates, family members, tutors, and staff. Of course, I enjoyed the free food. Eating is important, I'm told. I also enjoyed seeing individuals with whom I have worked receiving their diplomas - and gaining everyone's respect and inspiration was the oldest graduate, in his 60s.
The oldest BETD graduate of the year!
As I have shared from day one and will continue to share until education reform is a reality, I do sincerely hope that WorldTeach will eventually outgrow its purpose in Namibia. This will mean that teacher shortages have been eliminated; English education is sound; all schools are staffed with fully qualified teachers; quality teaching practices have become the norm; and all subjects will be supported by eager, willing, and highly competent educators from their home country. As Otis Redding prophecies, "change gonna come."
Left to right: Tamara, current Prime Minister and former Minister of Education Nahas Angula, and just-retired Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Libertine Amathila