The effect of colonialism on the Namibian Education.

Solomon Ortiz quoted, “Education is the key to success in life and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students.” Teaching in Namibia started as a subordinate to evangelist exercises. Schools were set up to supplement the work of Christianization, to give a basic training to Catechists and to change social structures that were thought to be agnostic. Even though that seemed to be in the best interest of the Namibian people, it had some effects on the Namibian education system.

One of the impacts of imperialism is that the colonisers administered two separate frameworks of education, one for whites and one for Africans. The Germans were the first to implement the separation of white students and African students. The white students received a well-rounded European style education. It could be said the African students’ education fell short of what the education that the white students were receiving. After that, the South African apartheid regime further separated by introducing tribalism in the equation and teaching in the mother tongue of the different Namibian tribes. This caused a further deterioration in the education of the African students’ education in Namibia. Sparks, Donald, and December Green (1992) said that the arrangement of teaching for the black students was for the most part focused on change, and after that, on getting Namibians ready for unskilled labour careers. This made the Namibians feel less savvy and disappointed that they were only needed for their manpower. This represented a shift from the mission of teaching Namibians about the Christian religion.

Aside from that, most missioners and colonisers incorporated the down to earth subjects (carpentry and brickmaking for young men, and domestic science for young ladies) that were fundamental for the individuals who were to make up the workforce for the developing pioneer population. The colonisers made the blacks their workers to manufacture and service their frameworks and do local works. Armbruster (2008) also stated that blacks were not permitted to pursue work outside of the realm of unskilled labour in light of the fact that they should serve the white intrigue. That is the reason we have a great deal of illiterate Namibian senior citizens. Many basic educational skills were considered to be of low need for African understudies and the vast majority of African students were not anticipated to go past the primary school level. The effect of this attitude toward the African student in Namibia created a major deficiency in the education system beyond the primary school level, including secondary school education and university level education. (Overy, 1945 p.64.)


This attitude toward the African students was an issue, but another problem was teacher training. Since there is a strong link between the level of education and expert training of the teaching force, quality education was not possible. Insufficient training, inadequate knowledge of subjects and poor linguistic competence of the educators was a major contributing factor to this problem. They spent only 2 weeks on training teachers and covered few topics in the course of the process.

One can conclude that the initial efforts of educating Namibians by the evangelicals were well-intentioned, even with the limited scope of their teachings. (Sparks et al., 1992) The Namibian education system took a major turn when the German colonisers introduced the separation of whites and blacks. The South African apartheid regime worsened the situation for African learners in Namibia with the introduction of tribalism. On top of that, there was also the major problem of a lack of qualified teachers for African children throughout the country as stated by Melbel (2003). By the time Namibia gained its independence, it was clear that reforms in the education system were very much-needed if Namibia was going to continue to develop as a nation and become prosperous.

Major Reforms in Education after Independence

After liberation, the Government of the Republic of Namibia (GRN) set about to form one unified association for education management, from the previous eleven uneven, ethnically based sectors. English replaced Afrikaans as the nation’s official language and was designated as the medium of teaching in schools and other educational organizations. Perhaps the most significant reform to the Namibian education system came the decision to educate the children of Namibia as equals. There would no longer be a difference amongst whites and Africans in the classroom as stated in the Government of Namibia year assessment.

A new learner-centered curriculum for Grades 1 to 12 was established and announced. These reforms were finalized in 1998. The changes received acknowledgement beyond Namibia’s borders and encompassed an adopted the Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) program for senior secondary level.


Curriculum development, informative research, and specialized development of school educators is centrally prepared by the National Institute for Educational Development (NIED) in Okahandja. It was also decided that teachers would be retrained during school holidays for distinct training sessions. There was a great burden on teachers and schools to convert in a short period of time, without the staff development in advance that would usually be required for such a responsibility.

The newly formed Constitution of Namibia would guide the administration to give free primary education over the whole nation, and hopefully bring about a higher enrollment of students. Guardians were never again charged for educational costs or books. Families would only be required to pay the expenses for uniforms, stationery, and inn settlement for boarders. Moreover, school boards were allowed to charge parents fixed amounts for their School Funds, which were used to supplement government allocations and cover some maintenance, improvements, and special projects. These were perceived as school fees, and were an obstacle for the poorest families, so they were abolished at the primary school level in 2013 and at secondary level in the year of 2016.

Compulsory education in Namibia starts at the primary school education level at an age of six. Learners in Grade 12 are graded in the different subjects they have taken and those who wish to pursue further studies need to obtain a good grade to meet the requirements of tertiary institutions both locally and abroad.

The changes implemented have brought about an enrolment rate of 95 percent of school-age children attending school and the number of teachers has increased by almost 30 percent since 1990. Over four thousand new classrooms have been built. As a result of these improvements, repetition rates reduced in all grades. Significant progress has also been made in the use of English, although challenges remain in improving standards of written English.

Namibia has two public tertiary institutions of general education, the University of Namibia (UNAM) established in 1992, and the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), which was transformed from the Polytechnic of Namibia at the beginning of the year in 2016. At both institutions, the basic requirement for entrance to undergraduate degree programmes is a Namibia Senior Secondary Certificate (NSSC), also referred to as a Grade twelve Certificate, with a pass in five subjects and a total score of twenty five points or more in not more than three examination sittings. Good performance in the English language examination is a requirement.

Namibia also has one private university, the International University of Management (IUM).  There are also a number of specialized further education institutions set up by government, the private sector, and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs). These include the College of the Arts (COTA) in Windhoek; The University Centre for Studies in Namibia (TUCSIN) in Windhoek, Oshakati, Rundu and Rehoboth; the Namibia Maritime Fisheries Institute (NAMFI) in Walvis Bay; the Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology (NIMT) in Arandis; and the Katutura Youth Enterprise Centre (KAYEC) in Windhoek, Ondangwa and Rundu.

The Namibian Training Authority (NTA) controls seven vocational training centres (VTCs). They offer a range of courses for students who did not qualify for the universities or are just looking for an alternative to attending university. The courses provided by the VTCs include: plumbing, welding, electrical general, automotive electrical, bricklaying, cabinet making, technical drawing, dressmaking, hospitality, office management and automotive mechanics. Vocational trainees in Namibia are given government grants to assist them in attending vocational training centres.

It should also be noted that educational institutions in Namibia and their portfolios are accredited by the Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA). This institution evaluates and accredits national institutions and degrees, as well as foreign qualifications of people who wish to demonstrate the national equivalence of their degrees earned abroad. The country has also established the National Standard Setting Body (NSSB) for the teaching profession. This body has been established to address the shortcomings of the teaching profession within Namibia. The NSSB will help develop a framework to raise the quality of teachers to an acceptable level. Based upon the many reforms discussed here, it is very clear that Namibia is determined to right the wrongs of the colonial and apartheid education systems.


Although Namibia is the one of the youngest nations in Africa, it has endured a long journey to get to its current point as a developing country. The story of the education system in Namibia is no exception to that sentiment. From the ambitious, good-hearted, well-intentioned and humble beginnings brought on by the missionaries to the demoralising apartheid regime of South Africa, Namibia has come a long way in its development of the education system currently in place. The reforms brought on after gaining independence have gone a long way toward reaching the goals of gaining access to quality and equal education for all Namibians provided by skilled educators. Many of the shortcomings of the past education system have been addressed. All children, no matter what race, have access to education now. Concerns regarding quality have been addressed from the standpoint of providing quality training for teachers and also in assessing the skill and progress of the learners. There is still work to be done in order to reach these lofty goals, but it can easily be argued that the nation is headed in the right direction.














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