The 2015 Quality Education Platform was held from 5 to 9 October in Windhoek, Namibia in light of the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals, and more specifically the education goal which calls for inclusive and equitable quality education and the promotion of life-long learning opportunities for all.
The 2015 Quality Education Platform was officially opened by Hon Prof Peter H. Katjavivi, Speaker of the National Assembly, who encouraged the participants to be inspired by the new international education agenda “to renew our commitment towards enhancing the quality of education in Namibia and in our Southern Africa Region”. Hon Prof Katjavivi especially appreciated UNESCO’s efforts in convening this important platform as well as the People’s Republic of China’s funding of the important project on Quality Teachers in Namibia.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Namibia, Ms Kiki Gbeho welcomed the regional participants emphasising the important role that literacy plays in poverty eradication. She highlighted literacy as “the foundation for lifelong learning and fully essential to social and human development in its ability to transform lives”.
Since the first day of the Regional Workshop marked the 5th of October, the World Teachers’ Day, Dr Jean Pierre Ilboudo, Head of Office and UNESCO Representative to Namibia, took the opportunity to celebrate teachers by highlighting their fundamental role in the provision of quality education. Under the 2015 theme of “Empowering teachers, building sustainable societies”, Dr Ilboudo started and ended by strongly emphasizing that “an education system is only as strong as its teachers”. His pledge to support teachers was appreciated by the audience.
The 2015 Quality Education Platform consisted of two main components: a) Southern Africa Regional Workshop on Literacy; b) National Quality Education Platform.
a) Southern Africa Regional Workshop on Literacy
With the aim of sharing good practices of literacy policies and programmes in the Southern Africa Region and collectively reflecting on literacy perspectives for the future, the Southern Africa Regional Workshop on Literacy was held on October 5th and 6th. The Namibian Education Community was joined by representatives from the education ministries in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The literacy workshop allowed for a regional mapping of the diverse literacy initiatives that are being undertaken in the Southern Africa sub region such as Associação Progresso’s programme ‘Literacy in Local Language, a Springboard for Gender Equality’ in Mozambique, which has been awarded the 2015 UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize.
The global and regional perspective on the progress made in literacy since 2000 was presented by Ms Mari Yasunaga, Literacy Specialist in the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, after which the eight Southern African countries presented their definitions, policies and measurements of literacy.
Other experiences shared included Namibia’s environmental literacy programme of the Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET), South Africa’s Kha Ri Gude National Literacy campaign and Mozambique’s Capacity Development for Education for All (CapEFA) programme. In a concluding group work, the participants identified critical issues regarding the quality of literacy and recommendations for moving forward.
The Deputy Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, Hon Anna Nghipondoka officially closed the Regional Platform on behalf of Hon Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, Minister of Education, Arts and Culture. She highlighted “the important role of teachers in the acquisition of literacy and skills”, but also the “need to look at literacy from a broad perspective because literacy goes further than just being able to read a basic sentence”. By emphasizing that “it is never not urgent to improve the quality of our education system”, she officially closed the Southern Africa Regional Workshop on Literacy.
b) National Quality Education Platform
The Namibian Education community continued deliberations on quality education during the rest of the week (7 to 9 October). The National Platform focussed on different subthemes pertinent to quality and aimed at creating a shared understanding of quality education, while committing to progress and achievement in the framework of the post-2015 education agenda and the goals set out for 2030.
These subthemes included learning through the mother languages, quality early learning, educators’ professional development and the integration of ICTs and technology in teaching and learning.
During a Language Symposium, international speakers highlighted the importance of mother tongue instruction in the formative years of schooling as well as the relevance of the mother tongue in the acquisition of a second language. Following the global perspective, Namibia’s country specific features were discussed, including the language policy, the language curriculum and transition from mother tongue to English, the establishment of a language board and language centre.
Following the language Symposium, the national platform turned its attention to the UNESCO/China Funds in Trust (CFIT) Project “Capacity Development for Quality in Pre- and Lower Primary Teacher Education in Namibia”. The overall project achievements as well as the results of the country wide collaborative Action Research Intervention Phase were presented. Written and oral reports of participating researchers showed that the CFIT project largely achieved its intended results.
Another important subtheme of the National Platform was the analysis of opportunities and challenges of ICT integration in teaching and learning; through different presentations, the relevancy of ICTs in delivering equitable and quality lifelong learning opportunities was discussed. The presentations generated discussions on the integration of ICTs in the Namibian classrooms as well as in Namibia’s institutions of higher education. A highlight was the Kopano Education Forum, an online community of educators established in the framework of the UNESCO CFIT project and hosted by UNAM’s Continuing Professional Development Unit. The virtual forum intends to facilitate discussions and sharing of practices between the different stakeholders involved in education in Namibia.
A focus on the post 2015 education agenda and its important focus on sustainable development concluded the discussions of the Platform.
H.E. Mr Xin Shunkang, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of Namibia officially closed the 2015 Quality Education Platform. The Ambassador was happy to recognize the platform as “another very important achievement of the CFIT project.” He highlighted that “multiple stakeholders are involved in education, and to come to recommendations for progress it is necessary to have all the different voices in the room”. He applauded the UNESCO CFIT project and the organizers of the platform for being able to achieve this type of collaboration.
Mr Charles Kabajani, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture and chairperson of the platform’s closing session, officially provided the Ambassador with a USB containing all presentations and deliberations made during the platform. Mr Kabajani handed over the device as “evidence of all the hard work done in the course of the one week platform”.
The platform was organized by the UNESCO Windhoek National Office for Namibia, in collaboration with the UNESCO Harare Regional Office for Southern Africa; the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture; the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation; and the Faculty of Education of the University of Namibia.