Deschooling society in Namibia

Dear Editor,

SCHOOLING means different things to different people depending on where you come from. Schooling and teaching have become so flexible and interchangeably used it fits in language like an amoeba. According to some scholars, formal schooling is defined as the age-specific, teacher related process requiring full-time attendance at an institution, whereby, it is obligatory to follow a curriculum to fulfill a set of objectives.

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However, when we look at how the educational reform has taken place in Namibia, is it fair to say the hat fits us all?

Deschooling was a term coined by Ivan IIlich; he was a priest, historian and philosopher. Deschooling society refers to a shift from a traditional, conventional and government institution to a more flexible and less restricted means of learning. This type of learning is more focused on an experiential and learned-centered approach and learning that takes place by using an individual’s intrinsic curiosities. The book ‘Deschooling society’ was published in 1970 but I believe is still relevant in this contemporary world but may be controversial to some. Ivan IIlich developed this idea that societies depend on institutions. Moreover, these institutions pattern people or rather assign roles to people and the society at large.

In addition, it discusses the institutionalising of societies and how it monopolises education as the only official means to education. 

It symbolises education in terms of status and prestige and it’s the only means of development. So, the aim of deschooling society has one motive only and that is to get rid of the construct of schools, since this concept of school only bares false hope for some and debunks the notion of good education by only receiving a degree or doctorate whereas, in reality they only create classes that separate people; alike, the diploma disease. Consequently, misleading poor people as universal education is not possible because not all people receive the right start to life. As a result, Ivan IIlich rather encourages the creation of institutions which assist with creative, personal and autonomous strides which cannot be controlled by technocrats.

Learning encompasses not only through teaching but using one’s life knowledge as a resource of learning as universal education may not be practical in this modern day.

So, Ivan IIlich offers the creation of new technologies to facilitate access to education, known as educational methodologies. This can be done through four classes of learning networks. First and foremost, having access to education objectives such as libraries, laboratories and television, these need to be at the disposal to students continuously. Secondly, skills exchange when a person wants to learn a new skill, they exchange skills with others.

Thirdly, peer-matching a communication whereby people have the choice and liberty to ascribe to the type of learning activities they desire to partake in. Lastly, the fourth learning network is service to educators, which is an open book to all services they can provide. In the Namibian context however, our societies learning world contains all these learning network, they are available but limited to the few usually through education or privilege.

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The Namibian educational structure is predominantly unilateral. Most if not all people believe that the best means to achieve success is to go to school, enter university and obtain a qualification. On the other hand, everyone learns how to live outside school. We learn to speak, to think, to love, to feel, to play, to curse and to work without interference from a teacher. But, what happens to the poor Namibian child that cannot access this means of education? Shockingly, for early child development the investment that a child gets is only N$294 by government, per-primary N$4 185 per learner, secondary N$15 227 per learner and lastly for tertiary N$56 564 (Budget vote, 2017). So, are we investing in the right level or providing the right means of education for the Namibian child?

Moreover, in Namibia there is a considerable problem of school dropouts in rural schools. According to the Teacher incentive study (2014) the loss of learners as they progress through the schooling cycling is such that out of 100 learners that enter Grade 1, only one pupil manages to reach Grade 12.

Even if they do enter university not all tend to successfully complete it. The National Council for higher education (2018) found that only 5 966 full-time students out of 10 791 completed their studies. There are many factors that need consideration as not all people are academically inclined nor given the possibility to use some of the four classes of learning networks as supplements to their educational undertakings. Taking Ivan IIlich’s recommendations into consideration the Namibian government needs to reconsider how resources are being used and distributed.

Therefore, this issue needs to be unpacked and only through dialogue can we achieve this.

Education needs to be trans-disciplinary and multi-faceted as learning is a lifelong. So the question we all need to ask ourselves is who does traditional schooling benefit most if the poor are confused with the process and substance? Importantly, this issue cuts across different disciplines. Therefore, medical treatment should not be mistaken for health care, police protection for safety, military poise for national security and lastly the rat race for productive work. Education is the key to success but how it is provided can make all the difference.

George Shan