Andrew Kathindi

In last ditch effort to avoid a stalemate, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture and Namibia National Teachers Union (NANTU) have struck a compromised deal. The final agreement between the Ministry and Union contains terms they previously found undesirable.

Education minister Anna Nghipondoka, following negotiations over two days between her office, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and NANTU, announced that grades 7-9 will return to school in all regions on the 7th of September. The Khomas region is not included in this opening date.

Grades 4-6 will reopen for the rest of the country including Khomas on 14th September. Khomas will also commence with grades 7-9 and finally on the 21st September pre-primary to grade 3 will resume.

“The fear of many people around the spread of COVID-19 and the impact on schools opening up is of concern. These deliberations resolved and agreed upon the following phasing-in of school’s resumption of face-to-face teaching and learning, in order to facilitate additional advocacy for education,” Nghipondoka said.

An original impasse had initially occurred on the first day of negotiations with NANTU Secretary General Loide Shaanika telling the Windhoek Observer that the union would not compromise on its stance.

“Our position remains unchanged, not negotiable as we cannot negotiate about dangerous, contagious and infectious health issues. The health and safety of our teachers, support staff and leaners are of paramount in this pandemic. A healthy nation is a productive nation,” she then said.

NANTU’s meeting with the OPM comes after the union’s “discontentment and shock” at President Hage Geingob’s decision to re-open all schools for face-to-face teaching on the 7th of September amidst rising cases of COVID-19.

Namibia has surpassed 8,000 cumulative COVID-19 confirmed cases with 86 deaths.

Meanwhile, private schools exercised their independent administrative option and have chosen to disregard Wednesday’s announcement by the Ministry of Education for state schools. They have announced that they will push ahead with re-opening for all grades on the 7th of September.

Windhoek Gymnasium Principal and President of the Association of Private Schools in Namibia (APSN), Colette Rieckert told Windhoek Observer that Private schools will be sticking to the President’s proclamation on 28 August.

“We’ve seen the arguments for the resumption of face-to-face teaching, and that (the President’s announcement) was based on a lot of study and information from medical and educational resources, on which that decision was based,” she said.

Rieckert further added, “We cannot accept that the Minister has the right to change that for all schools after consultations with one union which does not represent any of our members in any case.”

She stated that the private schools have been prepared to resume face-to-face teaching since before the first of September.

She argued, “The kids need the interaction; they need the proper education, which is not always done that efficiently online. This is especially the case for the junior grades. That is the right of every child. The fact of the matter is that the pandemic is among us and will not run away in two or three weeks from now.”