Friday, July 3, 2009


The educational system in Namibia (although one of the more developed in Africa) is so disparate to that in the United States that I am sure I can never adequately highlight the differences within the context of a post that covers an entire week. Here is what you should know:

Farms are more like sparsely populated, far spread communities in the countryside than what we are used to at home. Often times, these communities share schools, and the students may have to walk for several miles to reach them. They may only go up to grade 7 or 10, and if that is the case, the students’ education usually stops there, which will exclude them from many employment opportunities.

Kwakwas (sounds just like it’s spelled) is a farm school on the Kwakwas farm outside of Rehoboth. Each morning, all the teachers (4 of them for 7 grades, and 3 right now due to illness) are transported via combi (a large van) to the school. It takes around 45 minutes to get there.

The children that attend Kwakwas usually have parents that work on the farms. Almost all of them speak Nama as their first language, made up of complex clicks and sounds- it is very difficult to learn if it is not your first language. They are often very, very poor, and most receive their clothing and shoes from Catholic Aid or the school. They wear uniforms to school, but the dress code cannot be super-strict, because if they grow out of the clothes or if they are ruined, it may be some time until they can be replaced.

The curriculum for my class (grade 2) came from a 150-page book that lists all the educational goals of students in grades 1-4. Subjects taught are “maths,“ environmental studies, art, religious and moral education (in which they are exposed to both Chrisitianity and “traditional religions,“ Afrikaans, and English (which means they are expected to know 3 languages by the time they reach grade 4). One of the biggest challenges is that it does not identify which concepts should be taught in which grades. Knowing that children achieve some significant developmental milestones within that time, it is very important to know what children at each age are actually capable of. Given the fact that many teachers on farm schools do not have degrees in education, this is often difficult to ascertain.

The children receive corporal punishment as discipline.

There is a great lack of equipment. Not only are there no computers or copiers (which means everything must be written on the blackboard), there is no science equipment, calculators, art supplies, playground, and my class doesn’t even have enough pencils (sometimes that is because the kids become hungry and eat pencils or paper). As far as equipment for physical education, I have seen one soccer ball. There are a couple of games and puzzles that were left by previous volunteers, but the children will be closely monitored while using them, or they will steal pieces to take home. Stealing is a major problem; the children have so little, that they just want things to have, no matter what they are. We gave my class pencils that we had labeled with their names, and many of them carry the pencils with them everywhere they go. They are proud to have something that is their own.

Although Kwakwas has been around for more than 50 years, it receives very little help from the government, which is not uncommon concerning farm schools. The only real contribution the government makes is maize meal (corn meal) to feed the children, and usually not enough of that. The school relies on financial support from churches and individuals to remain open.


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