Endorsing the UNESCO definition, the 2013 Sector Policy on Inclusive Education defines inclusive education as “the process of addressing and responding to the diversity needs of all children, youth and adults through increasing participation, cultures and communities, and reducing and eliminating exclusion within and from the education system”. It further clarifies that inclusive education is not only limited to integrate children and young people with disabilities, or those who are vulnerable, rather it implies ending segregation or the deliberate exclusion from education of certain groups because of performance, gender, race, culture, religion, lifestyle, health conditions or disability conditions.
Yet, in official documents, such as the 2018 assessment of the 2013 Sector Policy on Inclusive Education, inclusive education does refer to children with disabilities.
Special educational needs
Learners with special educational needs have been considered children and youth with disabilities and extra-ordinary learning needs, whose education was provided in fully fledged special/resource schools, units and learning support classes as well as inclusive mainstream schools. The 2013 Sector Policy on Inclusive Education has shifted the paradigm to be responsive to the needs of all children. It acknowledges that certain children and young people may have or may be more likely to be educationally marginalized, including children residing in remote areas, street children, children with disabilities and impairments, children who are gifted/talented, children from households living in extreme poverty, and children with learning difficulties and/or emotional and behavioural challenges.
Traditionally, special education has been provided to learners with disabilities, according to a remedial and compensatory approach. The 2013 Policy on Inclusive education has introduced a paradigm shift to establish an inclusive education system in all schools from early childhood education level. According to the 2018 Assessing Inclusive Education in Practice Report, education in Namibia is provided in:
- Mainstream schools with learning support classes: Mainstream schools with separate segregated learning support classes for learners who require medium to high levels of support. Formerly Special Classes, they were re-redesigned to temporary admit learners with special educational needs.
- Inclusive schools accommodate all learners in the same classrooms, regardless of the level of support needed. Inclusive schools provide learners with the necessary support to ensure them to learn, contribute to and participate in all aspects of the life of the school.
- Resource/special schools: former Special Schools that provide teaching and learning to learners with various disabilities and they are expected to provide outreach services and support to mainstream schools. Resource Schools still are segregated schools that accommodate children requiring high levels of support. Mainly disability-specific, they implement a general education curriculum. In the case of learning disability, resource schools may adapt the curriculum to the learning needs especially in school for the learners with intellectual disability;
- Resource/special schools units: Mainstream schools with separate class for children with a specific learning disability example unit for learners with specific disabilities;
At the local level, Regional Inclusive Education Units were expected to be established to provide additional support learners with severe needs, who have been included into regular schools. Resource Schools, Inclusive education Units and Learning Support Classes are encouraged to cooperate with regular schools to foster inclusive approaches in education.
Early intervention, screening and assessment
Learners admitted to Resource Schools are assessed regularly to evaluate possible admission to regular schools. A mechanism for the early identification of individuals at risk of educational marginalisation and exclusion is expected to be developed as part of the monitoring and evaluation exercise for the Sector Policy on Inclusive Education. To date teachers in all circuits are trained on how to identify learners with disability looking at the possible symptoms of various disability and on how to accommodate them in the classroom. There is a designated Division: Assessment training services (DATs) that fulfill the mandate of testing, assessing and providing psychological services support to learners.
The right to education for all is enshrined in the 1990 Constitution, amended in 2010, which also sets forth that primary education is free and obligatory for all children (art. 20).
The 2000 National Policy for Educationally Marginalised Children aimed at contributing to the achievement of equitable access to education through targeting the educationally marginalized groups, such as children of farm workers, children in remote areas, street children, children in squatter areas and resettlement camps, children with physical and mental impairments, over-aged children and children in extreme poverty. In line with the 2008 Education Sector Policy for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, ensuring equal education opportunities based on the groups’ needs has been a central policy priority, paving the way to an inclusive education approach.
In line with the international commitments, Namibia is engaged to implement inclusive education. Embracing a broad conceptualization, the 2013 Sector Policy on Inclusive education aims to create a supporting learning environment that accommodates all children regardless of their abilities and to expand access to and provision of quality education, especially for educationally marginalized learners. The Education Strategic Plan (ESP) 2017/18 – 2021-22 and the related National Development Plan Five explicitly refers to inclusive quality education in its mission statement, acknowledging diversity. As part of its strategic objective, it plans to reach out to out-of-school primary-age children, to enhance education in remote rural areas, and to foster lifelong learning for marginalized communities.
The 2004 National Disability Council Act, last amended in 2015, reaffirms the equal opportunities for persons with disabilities and ensures their access to vocational, educational and employment training. Informed by the principle of inclusive education, it reaffirms the right of children to be taught with their peers, “whenever possible”, regardless of individual differences or difficulties they may have (3.5.1). Within this framework, the 1997 National Policy on Disability emphases that children and youth with disabilities have the same right to education as children and youth without disabilities.
Since children with disabilities and learning difficulties are considered vulnerable, the 2008 Education Sector Policy for Orphans and Vulnerable Children aims to ensure that the school provide them with teaching and learning experiences that foster opportunities and their potential with an inclusive approach and respect for diversity. It further compels the state to provide children with severe disabilities with the possibility to attend a government-funded school, unit or class able to meet their needs.
In line with the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development and its Addendum on the Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women and Children SADC Protocol on Gender and development, the Gender Policy 2010-2020 strives to balance male-female participation rates in education and reduce gender inequalities.
As teenage pregnancy still represents one of the main cause of school drop-out, the 2018 Educational Sector Policy for Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy aims to prevent and decrease the number of learner pregnancies and to manage and promote education completion of learner-parents. Allowing pregnant girls to continue education at school until four weeks before her expected due date or to take a justified leave absence, the policy intends to create support for learners before giving birth. After birth, girls are encouraged to continue their education according to their health and wellbeing, by providing justification for infant care.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and Indigenous groups
The Constitution considers unlawful any legislation that prohibits the use of local languages as medium of instruction (art.3). As stated in the 2001 Education Act, last amended in 2005, English is the medium of instruction. However, if necessary, a language other than English may substitute English, after consultation between the Minister and the concerned school board (art.35.4).
According to the 2003 National Language Policy for Schools, learners’ language and cultural identity is promoted through the use of mother tongue as medium of instruction in grades pre-primary to grade -3 junior primary phase . In grade 4, as transitional year, English plays a supportive role in the classroom. In a school where a substantial number of learners belong to different language groups, specific arrangements are expected to be adopted to provide instruction in the different languages.
People living in rural or remote areas
Children in remote rural areas as well as learners in squatter areas and resettlement camps are among the target groups of the 2004 National Policy on Orphans and Vulnerable Children. Learners residing far away from school are planned to be financially assisted with transport and/or boarding facilities. The Vision 2030 emphasizes the need to develop an Early Childhood Development (ECD) policy and implement innovative ECD programmes specifically targeted at rural and marginalized communities..
As recognized in the 2004 National Policy on Orphans and Vulnerable Children, children from poor households are entitled to benefit from affordable education. Payment of school fees and school uniforms were expected to be regulated. Thus, the implementation of the 2012 Universal Primary and secondary 2015 Education has led to a drastic increase in number of learners attending primary and secondary school .The school feeding programme is one of the main incentives for school attendance for poor learners. The provision of the school feeding programme has reached more beneficiaries over the years. The number of the beneficiaries increased from 500 learners in 1991 to more than 377 854 in 2018. It has being observed that school-feeding programme is a strong incentive to attract children to attend school, especially those from poor family backgrounds.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare assists parents with processing school fee exemptions. An Education Development Fund has been set up to compensate for the education costs not collected from exempted learners.
Cooperation across sectors
The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture (MoEAC) has been implementing the 2013 Sector Policy on Inclusive Education. An inter-ministerial, intra-ministerial and stakeholder collaboration on inclusive education, the Inclusive Education Steering Committee (IESC) is supposed to monitor the situation of vulnerable and marginalised groups and promote their education access, improve collaboration, information sharing and implementation.
Cooperation across government levels
In line with the Government’s Decentralisation Implementation Plan 2016-2021, the current ESP aims to enhance management of the decentralization function. Funding arrangements for inclusive education within national and decentralized structures are revised in line with the adoption of the Sector Policy on Inclusive Education, ensuring funds allocation to special education needs through Education Development Fund (EDF).
In line with the aspirations of Vision 2030, Namibia developed with the support of UNICEF and the European Union the 2018 National Safe Schools Framework – Practical Guide for Building Safe Schools. Informed by the principle of inclusive education, the guide also contains a section on the establishment of minimum standards and norms for infrastructure and capacity at state schools. It sets among basic indicators the buildings and facilities are accessible to all, including persons with a disability as well as equipped with water and sanitation facilities.
The 2013 Sector Policy on Inclusive Education has led to the curricula review to make them more responsive to the principle of diversity, modifying and adapting subject content with suitable methodologies and materials. The 2018 Curriculum Framework for Inclusive Education: Supplementary to National Curriculum for Basic Education calls for a more responsive curriculum to all learners with special educational needs. It aims to ensure consistency in the attainment and sustainability of the aims and objectives of the 2013 Sector Policy on Inclusive Education. The curriculum framework informed the development of syllabuses for the visually, intellectually and hearing impaired, as well as the development of Basic Pre-vocational Skills Courses offered in Resource Schools and Units. Examinations, learning assessment and progression are also redesigned in the light of learners’ diversity. In the same document it is mentioned that ‘The current curriculum advocates differentiation and learner-centred approaches. These approaches are powerful tools for inclusion. It is recommended that the curriculum training for teachers includes practical tips and orientations to help teachers to use the curriculum effectively to respond to a range of needs’.
According to the 2018 assessment, ‘the curriculum and content of the training for teachers, therapists and social workers need to be developed with the participation and involvement of the Disability Sector (including OPDs), NGOs, parents, schools, the Ministry and consultants’. . Processes to ensure the deployment of paramedical staffs in special/resource schools has started and is expected to be desired in the next seven years.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
A new Language in Education Policy is expected to be developed to take Namibia’s diversity into account. Local language, iconic languages, Namibian Sign Language and the use of Braille are implemented and embraced in schools with learners with visual and hearing impairments.
As pointed out in the Gender Policy 2010-2020, curricula, textbooks and all teaching and learning materials need to be free from gender-stereotyped references and illustrations at all levels of education.
ICTs and Learning materials
Learning support materials and required supplementary instructional resources need to be reviewed in order to remove stigma and be suitable to support learners. The ESP also affirms the need to provide sufficient textbooks and other learning resources, including ICT, assistive technology for children with disabilities, and a conducive learning environment for the development of learners’ potential. Cultural diversity through local and communities’ arts and other social platforms is encouraged. During 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 financial years, the Ministry has spent a total of N$ 10 784 105,98 in assistive technology and equipment’s for children with disabilities.
The principle of inclusion is expected to inform all teacher-training programmes. Educational Support Units established at tertiary education institutions provide continuous professional development courses or workshops on inclusive education practices, programme, development, implementation and monitoring.
Teacher training institutions are encouraged to build close relationships with schools that work towards inclusive education and encourage information and experience exchange. All teachers are expected to acquire a general understanding of inclusive practices; most are required to develop expertise in dealing with common difficulties/disabilities; a few have to specialize in learners’ difficulties/disabilities. Manuals for teachers and facilitators have been developed to identify and support orphans and vulnerable children. A learning support manual has been developed to support learners with learning difficulties.
Teachers hardship remote areas incentive called “teachers bush allowance” was introduced in 2007 to attract teachers to remote areas. The ESP 2017-2020 intends to strengthen incentives to attract qualified teachers to remote rural areas. In addition, the Gender Policy 2010-2020 encourages affirmative actions for the professional development of female educators, teachers and professors in order to take up managerial education roles.
The 2013 Sector Policy on Inclusive Education intends to provide schools with qualified paramedical staff, including occupational therapists, speech/language therapists, social workers, audiologists. It also commits to train support professionals, such as teacher assistants/facilitators, mobility and orientation instructors, interpreters, and specialized professionals in HIV and AIDS, early childhood development, gender-mainstreaming, counselling and school health. In addition, inclusive education specialists are expected to be trained and deployed in regional offices and at school with an advisory role together with advisory education teachers and/or officers with expertise in Inclusive Education practices. Particular attention has been paid to psychosocial support as integral school activity.
The University of Namibia (UNAM) intends to to re- introduce Special needs education Diploma majoring in different disabilities. The Namibian Student Financial Assistance (NSFAF) is considering to funding paramedical staff, including occupational therapists, speech/language therapists, social workers, audiologists.
Namibia provides annual education statistics, which report data on the number of learners with disabilities by type of disability by region and gender as well as the number of orphans and vulnerable children by region and gender.
The 2013 Sector Policy on Inclusive education envisages a wider scope of data collection on educationally marginalized learners, along the production of qualitative and quantitative research and analysis on measuring progress and impact, and the collection of successful inclusive education practices. While the eighth strategy of the 2013 policy was to ‘develop a mechanism for monitoring and evaluating’, the 2018 assessment finds that reliable statistics are still lacking.
An index for monitoring the inclusion practices was developed and completed by schools in 2019-2020. The Index serves as an education monitoring indicator for the 2013 Sector Policy on Inclusive education .