According to The Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) Report in 2007, only 73 percent of the Grade 6 learners in Namibia had at least one exercise book, a pencil or a pen, and a ruler. In other words, around three in every ten (27%) learners did not have all the three basic learning items that were considered necessary for effective participation in classroom activities.  While most of these learners were in rural schools a substantial number were also located in urban schools.   The same report stated that although materials were in short supply class sizes and learner teacher ratio were good.  Writing this from a Western perspective it is difficult to imagine working in a setting where pupils do not have access to the basic materials we so take for granted. In light of this, it seems to me that when we consider what gifted education might look like in Namibia we need to understand it and conceptualise it from a Namibian perspective and this can only be done with the help and support of Namibian people and young people.

Often in education a whole system has been established based on the segregation of pupils from the mainstream system who have been deemed incapable of succeeding with their peers.  Often we concentrate on those who have difficulty and thus there is an inconsistency between how we treat groups of people perceived to be different. It clearly depends on how you are different. There is, therefore, a tension which requires to be reconciled if such differences in treatment is to be justified. Equally the move towards inclusion, given the experiences of those segregated from mainstream education, militates, some might argue, against separate provision of any kind. One might question whether this is a budgetary response or an educational one.  These issues are ones that all countries are grappling with and Namibia will be no different. 

It is this very examination of the issues that allows educators to plan and provide effectively for all pupils in their care.

Thus there may be a lot of discussion and debate about the best way of meeting the needs of highly able pupils but there is little doubt that they do have needs and neglect of these means that problems and difficulties may emerge.

However gifted education in Namibia develops in the future I would hope that it takes account of history and culture and learns from the mistakes of others – I for one don’t think we can separate gifted education from issues of social justice.  Returning to the SACMEQ Report I’m encouraged that the teacher pupil ratio was found to be good – the teacher has a key role to play in the development of education and gifted education is no different.  Go Namibia – we have much to learn from you!

Thank you to Roya Klingner for offering me the opportunity to comment on gifted education in Namibia.  

By Margaret Sutherland - March 2012

Social Justice, Place and Lifelong Education Lecturer
Programme Leader, Masters in Inclusive Education
Director, Scottish Network for Able Pupils
Deputy Director, The Centre for Research and Development in Adult and Lifelong Learning
Room 638
St Andrew's Building
School of Education
University of Glasgow