Unam’s English requirement needs review

Unam’s English requirement needs review

The University of Namibia’s requirement for a C symbol in English is fundamentally flawed, and should thus fall.

I am sitting with a child whose dream was to study medicine at Unam but because she unfortunately grew up in the north where learners generally do poor in English this child now can’t pursue her dream.

Part of the requirements to pursue a degree in medicine is a pass of English in Grade 12 with a C symbol. This learner has at least an A symbol in all her subjects, however, she has a D in English. Due to my frustration caused by this absurdity I write this article with the intention of exposing the fact that Unam’s practice is based on unreasonable and unjustifiable grounds.

We have students in Namibia and everywhere else around the world that go to some foreign country to pursue studies offered in a foreign language. A lot of Namibian students for instance are studying in Cuba, Russia and China. These students upon arrival are ideally required to enrol for language courses during their first year in order to acquire language competency skills, which should suffice to allow them to pursue the course of their choice.

Now, imagine, such a student after only a year of learning a completely new language, is deemed fit to pursue a course instructed in a foreign language. There are numerous students who have graduated in such circumstances, and indeed continue to do so. I have a certain friend of mine, Frans Nekuma, who studied in Russia up to the level of a Master’s Degree in Engineering, and even managed to pass at the top of his class.

The university was so impressed he was awarded an option to do his doctorate. You will agree with me that such students after completing the one-year language courses would obviously not have acquired language competency skills equivalent to a C symbol, probably a G would be a fair score of what a person can master within a year.

However, these students, as illustrated by my friend Frans, show language doesn’t seem to have an effect that disables them to complete their studies. Similarly, Namibian learners with a poor English symbol but with flying colours in all other subjects should be allowed to study any course of their choice.

English is certainly not a problem and should never stand in the path to anyone’s career. Yours truly for instance, also got a D in English in Grade12. However I was allowed to enrol for a BSc at Unam in 2002, at a time before the current restrictions were strictly enforced. As a write now, I hold three degrees and English has never been a limiting factor to me. Many other professionals similarly placed will testify same. For argument’s sake even if it is a limiting factor the important desired outcome is completion of studies.

At this stage of the article you should be agreeing with me that indeed Unam as a national university that not only deals with local but also international students should abandon this English language requirement. I am really finding it very difficult to understand the logic preferred by the Unam. The ministry of higher education should intervene in this matter. How can Unam be allowed to force us to accept that a learner who has 5 As in all subjects but English cannot be enrolled to pursue a degree in, for instance Mathematics, Chemistry or Geography? The effect of this amongst others is that as the majority of the affected learners are mostly from poor village backgrounds, this language criterion is unfairly discriminating against these learners. Honestly, and reasonably speaking Unam’s logic doesn’t make sense and thus should be set aside henceforth. I therefore call upon the university to abandon this absurd criteria. In the event they don’t agree with this request, they should conduct a thorough research on this matter. A proper academic research on this subject will inevitably conclude squarely within the parameters of what is discussed herein.

* Kingsley Ngoshi
BSc, B Juris University of Namibia, LLB University of South Africa

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