The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach nor the Namibia Ministry of Education, but rather my personal views.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Third Trimester

No, I am not with child. I am, though, into my third trimester of interaction with hundreds of schoolchildren in Northwest Namibia.

Schools throughout the country operate in three terms per year. The third and final trimester of 2009 began in early September and will end, for most, at the beginning of December. It will end sooner for grade 10 and grade 12 learners.

There is an increasing expectation and push for teachers in public schools around the country to complete their syllabi in the first two terms, so that the third term can be spent helping learners review and prepare for final exams. Learners in grades 7, 10, and 12 must take national standardized exams in the third term. Grade 10 exams are over at the end of October, after which time they are free for the remainder of the year. Grade 12 exams continue into November.

The standardized exams for grades 10 and 12 are critical. In the case of grade 10, learners who do not receive enough passing marks will not be allowed to move to grade 11. In the case of grade 12, learners who do not receive the required scores will not graduate. In both exam situations, learners failing to earn the required passing marks are not allowed to return to school the following year. They must:
  • prepare to retake the exams either through independent study or an approved program designed to assist learners who have failed (They may return to school once they have passed the required tests);

  • enter a vocational school or program;

  • enter the workforce; or

  • choose some other life path available to individuals without secondary school certificates.

Unfortunately, a few of these learners (without secondary school certificates) end up teaching in Namibia’s underresourced public schools, earning full credentials along the way. You can imagine the challege this can present in the classroom.

Over the past year, I have learned that because of the past inequities in the educational system and a still developing teacher-training system, many teachers are not fully knowledgeable about the academic subjects they have been hired to teach, especially in the math and science disciplines. Some teach straight from textbooks and tend to stick to a single method of introducing new topics to learners. I have now begun encouraging teachers to utilize the Centre to improve their subject understanding and possibly adopt different instructional techniques. Language barriers, confusion about the role and offerings of the Centre, and trepidation about using computers are still three of the biggest obstacles to greater teacher engagement in the Centre.

Throughout this trimester, I have been focused on drafting an operations manual for the Centre, including a comprehensive Centre Manager job description and planning calendar; gathering input on registration and learner selection policies; continuing to train and motivate teachers and administrators to take ownership over the Centre; collecting and analyzing school, class, learner, and Centre performance data to begin evaluating potential impact; and familiarizing myself with the scope and tools of the educational learning software. I’ve been super-busy and super-pumped, and yes, my colleague (supposed counterpart) at the Centre still finds time to read books and magazines during the workday. Pity.

Although my original contract ends in December, I have decided to commit another six months to this project. There is just so much potential and so much work to be done.

At the end of this trimester, I will relocate to the capital city of Windhoek and work as an advisor for related computer-based learning centres throughout the country. I will also spend time working in the southern town of Keetmanshoop to review and hopefully revitalize the math and science centre there.


  1. So you are not coming back. Darn, but I know the work you are doing there is very beneficial. I admire you and your cause.
    KEn Smith

  2. I continue to be so proud of you.