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Policy and Programs

National Literacy Programme in Namibia (NLPN): Ministry of Basic Education and Culture

While collecting information for this global distance education network, SAIDE held several interviews with organisations in Southern African countries. Impressions of each country were generated to give some introduction to distance education and technology use in the area. Each interview has also been written up separately as a case study.

SAIDE country visits conducted in 1999

Permission granted

Contact Details

Contact Person: Ms Canner Kalimba
Position: Director of Adult Basic Education
E-mail: ckalimba@emis.mec.gov.na
Fax: 09264 61 293 3913
Tel: 09264 61 293 3187
Postal Address Private Bag 12033
Ausspannplatz, Windhoek


The National Literacy Programme in Namibia (NLPN) is part of the Government’s commitment to national development and education for all. According to the Constitution and the national education policy, Government is responsible for providing basic education to all residents, including adults. In September 1992, after careful preparation by the Department of Adult Education and Culture, the NLPN was launched. It would build upon a long tradition of literacy and adult education, dating back to the early activities of the missionaries, and continuing programmes of the churches, NGOs, and SWAPO during the liberation struggle.

The programme has gradually expanded since 1992, from about 15,000 learners taught by 700 promoters (literacy teachers) in the first year to about 36,000 learners and about 2000 promoters in all three stages in 1994/95. The programme continues to expand, and in 1999 there are some 46,000 learners.

Studies revealed that 35% of the Namibian population above the age of 15 (and 38% of the Namibian population above the age of 16) were illiterate in 1991. This means that at least 300,000 people lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. This poses serious constraints on their active participation in the social and economic development of Namibia.

Mission Statement

The Directorate of Adult Basic Education (DABE) is dedicated to provision of literacy and numeracy skills to disadvantaged adults and out-of-school youth to enable them to contribute more effectively to national development.

Currently the Directorate tries to satisfy its Mission through three related programmes, namely the National Literacy Programme in Namibia (NPLN), the Adult Upper Primary Programme, the Adult Skills Development for Self Employment, and Community Learning and Development Centres. While the NLPN is a well-developed activity, the others are in their formative stages.

Aims and Objectives

The goal is for Namibia to become a fully literate nation. The short-term quantitative goal is to attain 80% literacy in Namibia by the year 2000. The ultimate qualitative goal of the literacy programme and all Adult Basic Education is to improve the quality of life for all Namibians who in the past were discriminated against and marginalized. The overall programme objectives are therefore to promote social, cultural, political, and economic development. To this end, the NLPN:

  • promotes basic literacy skills in mother tongue languages and in English, as well as basic numeracy skills;
  • promotes further learning and education among adults with the view to reducing existing educational inequalities;
  • empowers learners by reinforcing self-confidence, self-reliance and the ability to continue learning throughout their lives;
  • enhances people’s communication capacity and the creation of a well-informed citizenry
  • empowers people to participate in the democratic process and exercise their rights and responsibilities as human beings;
  • enables parents, both mothers and fathers, to participate in the improvement of their children’s health and education;
  • enables and encourages youth and adults to participate in community development and training activities to equip them with production and business planning and management skills;
  • enhances understanding and tolerance of different religions, beliefs, cultures and ways of life;
  • fosters a positive attitude towards equality between women and men;
  • promotes national unity and international understanding between women and men;
  • enhances environmental awareness.

How the Basic Education Directorate operates

The Adult Basic Education Programme fulfils its functions through its five professional subdivisions and a general services subdivision. The latter handles general administrative and support functions, without which the professional divisions would not operate. The subdivisions are:

  • Material Development is responsible for development of all learning and teaching materials in mother tongues and in English. The division is also responsible for the production of the Directorate’ s newsletter.
  • Training of Trainers is responsible for organizing training programmes for the Directorate staff members both in pre-service and in-service situations. As it is the Directorate’s policy to support the training needs of cooperating partners, such bodies can approach this division when in need.
  • Research, Planning and Programme Development, through research and other means, identifies new programmes, and suggests new directions to the Directorate. This enables the Directorate to respond quickly to the needs of adult learners.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation is responsible for monitoring the programme through collecting and analysing statistics gathered through monitoring instruments designed by the Directorate. It also organizes programme evaluation as well as yearly evaluation and assessment of learning achievements.
  • Adult Skills Development for Self-Employment is responsible for all the activities of the new pilot project on employment creation. It cooperates very closely with all other divisions of the Directorate.

Adult Basic Education Programme

The programme is divided into three stages, each stage lasting about one year. Numeracy skills are taught throughout the three stages. A learner may repeat a stage only once.

Stage One

This is open to those at the very beginning, and materials are designed to introduce learners to the basic syllables of their own mother tongue. Learning how to write properly is an important activity of this stage.

Stage Two

This stage, which is also conducted in mother tongues, deals with intermediate learners, the majority of whom will have successfully completed Stage One. A few others will be those who dropped out of school at very early stages or those who have acquired some reading and writing skills on their own. The instructional materials at this stage are functional. This means that, while seeking to improve, reinforce, and sustain the skills acquired in Stage One, the materials will simultaneously offer useful knowledge and skills in various subjects such as in agriculture, health, small scale business, civics, etc. The NLPN hopes that discussion of the issues raised in the materials, and action which the learners may decide to take arising from the discussions, would go a long way in improving the quality of lives of the participants and of their communities.

Stage Three

Learners are introduced to basic English. The emphasis is on communicative English and reinforcing developmental activities.

Adult Upper Primary Programme

The completion of the three stages in the NLPN is considered equivalent to Grade 4 in the primary school system. The Directorate is planning a curriculum for the immediate follow-up of Stage Three. This phase is known as the Adult Upper Primary Programme, and it is designed to satisfy the needs of the adult learners while at the same time offering them educational competencies equivalent to those of upper primary school. Other less formal learning activities will be available to those adults not interested in this type of certificate.

Adult Skills Development for Self-Employment

This new project is being piloted in Karas and Oshana regions with the purpose of providing the Directorate with the capacity to validate an approach to adult non-formal training activities at national, regional, and district levels. The main goal of the project is to provide a better service to the community by integrating adult education with employment creation. It is hoped that, when the project is fully operational, it will contribute to the national effort of poverty alleviation through affording communities with self-employment skills. The main beneficiaries of this project are individuals or groups of adults over the age of 18 years who were previously deprived and are now eager to venture into new occupational areas.

Programme Ownership, Cooperation, and Support

The Namibian Government is the main facilitator and sponsor of the literacy programme. However, ownership of the programme rests with the community. The community is expected to participate in all the programmes including their initiation, planning, direction, monitoring, and evaluation. Despite the constraints, which communities may have, such as poverty and inadequate means of communication, people and communities are encouraged and supported to participate in the structures, which have been created specifically to empower them to take full control of the programme and direct it to their benefit. The following structures have been set up to invite wide participation in the programme:

  • National Literacy Committee: directs the programme at the national level and advises the Minister on policy and new directions for the programme. Though coming from the main stakeholders, the members are appointed by the Minister and serve the Committee in their individual capacities.
  • Regional Literacy Committee: directs the programme at regional level.
  • District Literacy Committee: directs the programme at the local level. This important committee is responsible for mobilizing communities, for recruitment of learners and for identifying the local resources needed for the smooth operation of the programme.
  • Literacy Class Committee: is made up of the learners themselves and is responsible for ensuring that classes are conducted in a manner conducive to learning. One major responsibility of a class committee is to bring back fellow learners who have drifted away from the class.

Partnership and Cooperation with NGOs

NGOs and the private sector can participate in the programme by:

  • Setting up learning groups that are managed and supervised entirely by the sponsors themselves;
  • Making available premises for government-led groups; and
  • Sponsoring the programme through the National Literacy Trust from which NGOs involved in running literacy programmes can get financial help to supplement their own funds.

The directorate will assist all organizations registered with the programme by supplying learning materials without charge, assisting with the training of staff, without charge, assisting the partner to set up and monitoring literacy classes.

Relevant Education Policy

The NLPN is an integral part of the national education system. The four major national educational goals – access, equity, quality and democracy – are guiding principles that must be realized through NLPN. (Refer to Policy Guidelines for the Second Phase, 1996 – 2000 of the National Literacy Programme in Namibia, Ministry of Basic Education and Culture, Directorate of Adult Basic Education, Windhoek, Namibia, 1997, pp. 6-7).

Challenges and Opportunities

The Ministry of Basic Education is dependent for the success of the programme on support from all sectors of society, including political leaders, community leaders, employers in the private and public sectors, government ministries at central and regional levels, trade unions, churches, youth; women’s organizations, donors, and the media.

Some future plans include:

  • Increasing enrolment of literacy learners, especially at Stage One. While still encouraging more women to join, men will be targeted especially because too few are participating.
  • Gradually and progressively developing post-literacy programmes to a stage equivalent to Grade 7 in formal school.
  • Establishing mechanisms for increasing awareness and support of adult skills activities.
  • Establishing Community Learning Development Centres to sustain acquired literacy skills.

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