Democratic Teacher Education Reform in Africa: The Case of Namibia (review)
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Africa Today 47.3/4 (2000) 191-193

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Zeichner, Kenneth, And Lars Dahlstrom. 1999. Democratic Teacher Education Reform in Africa: the Case of Namibia. Boulder: Westview. 269 Pp.

Namibia is not alone among developing nations that have made education the centerpiece for reconstruction and development, but it has won the distinction of being the only nation in Africa to make pre-service and in-service training of the nation's teacher corps, and professional development of teacher educators, central to the project of educational reform--to deconstruct apartheid, reconstruct political economy, and renew culture in Namibia.

At Independence in March 1990, the challenge of educational reform was defined as the transformation from the existing race-based elite system of education under apartheid, to a democratic system that will provide a high quality basic education of at least ten years to all Namibians. This would not be an education for "improvement, not change," but an education with a new calculus of means and ends, to exorcize the nonwhite Namibians of their sense of inferiority and dependence and to prepare them for new roles and functions in an independent, democratic, and progressive nation, rid of poverty. That would require teacher educators and classroom teachers with ideological commitments and professional competence needed to decolonize the colonized mind of learners in schools, to give the students not only new knowledge and skills, but also new definitions of self and new visions of their future.

The Teacher Education Reform Project (TERP), initiated in 1992, was developed exactly for the purpose of educating and socializing such a group of teacher educators. TERP was rooted in the ideology of the liberation struggle as led by SWAPO in exile, sited in the postpositivist epistemologies of constructivism and critical theory, and colored in the pedagogy of reflective practice in teaching and learning. This particular triangle of ideology-epistemology-pedagogy had been tested for its strength at the Kwanza Center in the Angola bush during the struggle, and then more formally in the Integrated Teacher Training Programme (ITTP), between 1986 and 1992, before it was shaped into the Basic Education Teacher Diploma (BETD). This new project acquired an institutional home of its own in the National Institute for Educational Development (NIED) that would serve as the professional [End Page 191] wing of the Ministry of Education and Culture, and would spearhead the BETD program, as well as guide the four teacher colleges in Windhoek, Ongwediva, Rundu, and Katima Mulilo.

Constructivist epistemology in which BETD was embedded is not reducible to formulaic methodologies and procedures, and critical theory which was the soul of the new initiative demands communicative action that has to be developed anew by each individual agent, participatively within each new group, in each new teaching-learning context. To relate with the four-pronged national education policy of Namibia--access, equity, quality, and democracy--BETD as actualized wove many themes into one discourse to include: reflective practice, critical inquiry, critical pedagogy, gender awareness and equity, learner-centered education, school-based studies, action research, peer teaching, solidarity, and democracy.

The writing of this book in itself has been an act of professional development of teacher educators of Namibia in the context of TERP from 1992 to 1998. Nahas A. Angula, onetime Minister of Education and Culture, provides a comprehensive policy context for BETD, while Patti Swarts, the director of NIED, elaborates the model of reflective practice that lies at the core of BETD. Kenneth Zeichner and Lars Dahlstrom, and as many as fifteen of their old comrades and new colleagues from within and outside Namibia, provide personalized testimonies of how things used to be under German colonization and South Africa's apartheid regime, and what they had now learned about the processes and practices of BETD after the long dark night of "invisible oppression" and "fundamental pedagogics," developed specially for blacks who would never be allowed to be any thing more than "hewers of wood and drawers of water." Staf Callewaert writes "neither in anger nor in triumph," as he provides a clear and candid evaluative account...