An education law perspective on early childhood development provision in rural Namibia
Nuugwedha, Linea Peneyambeko Kandalindishiwo
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Background: After independence education was declared one of the inviolable fundamental human rights of all persons entrenched in the Supreme Law of the country, the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia. It is an irrefutable fact proven by a number of research findings and confirmed by educational theorists and decided cases that appropriate and quality early childhood education is a foundation of all levels of education. In Namibia currently, public early childhood development and education is provided by community members in Early Childhood Development Community Centres in both rural and urban areas. It is against this background that the purpose of the study on which this research report is based was to determine, through stakeholder participants’ eyes, how the presumed right to education of the pre- grade one learners in rural early childhood development and education community centres (ECDECCs) in Northern Namibia is adhered to. Research Design and Methodology: The study was based on a qualitative interpretive hybrid case study of four (including pilot study) rural ECDECCs, review of early childhood development and education literature, legal literature, relevant legislation, case law, regulations, policies and International Human Right Instruments conducted before and after conducting research in the field. Empirical data were collected through semi-structured individual (one on one) face to face interviews with various stakeholder participants (such as heads of/teachers at ECDECCs, parents/guardians, community leaders/members, officials from the Ministry of Gender Equality, Ministry of Education and Human Rights Activists. The findings of the study were inter alia that all participants had knowledge of and understood the fact that five to six years old children indeed have the right to education, and most of them also understood the significance of pre- grade one learners’ education. As such, the communities were doing everything in their power to provide early childhood education. However, early childhood development and education community centres were ill-equipped in terms of physical facilities, human resources, and learning-teaching aids. In addition, heads of centres/teachers were not properly trained. There was no tap water, no electricity, and no toilet facilities. Most children did not fully or not at all attend community centres for early childhood education, because of inability on the part of their parents/guardians to pay the prescribed fees. Buildings (structures) in which pre-grade one education was practised were not completed and therefore not suitable for human occupation, as community members who initiated them did not have sufficient funds to finance such undertakings. Literature studies of selected relevant legal literature, Constitutions, legislation, decided cases and international human right instruments confirm the fact that pre-grade one education is indeed a legally enforceable fundamental human right to basic education. To this end, there are legal determinants of the provision of pregrade one learners early childhood development and education. Recommendations were that the State (government) had to take over early childhood education, and that teachers have to be academically and professionally trained and accordingly paid salaries by the Ministry of Education. Because of the above obstacles experienced in rural ECDECCs, pre-grade one learners’ right to education leaves much to be desired. Consequently, it is recommended that the Ministry of Education must, as of necessity, legally take over education of all pre-grade one learners (preprimary learners) in entirety in order to comply with the provisions of International Human Rights Instruments in general, and Article 20 (1) of the Constitution of Namibia in particular. In addition, in order to ensure promotion, advancement, realisation and fulfilment of the pre-grade one learners’ right to education, the current Namibian Education Act needs to be amended like the South African Schools Act, or a new Early Childhood Development and Education Act has to be promulgated altogether, to specifically and particularly cater for the pre-grade one learners’ right to basic education. This is indispensable because, in the words of Smith (2011: 305): “The value and necessity of education is beyond dispute because education is both a human right in itself and a crucial means of realising other human rights.” The study concluded that early childhood education provision and practice in ECDECCs in rural areas in their current nature and status at the time of conducting this study in Northern Namibia leaves much to be desired. As such, it is not the best possible vehicle for the early childhood development and education provision of pregrade one education for the five to six years old children in light of their human right to education.
- Education