The perceptions and attitudes of secondary school learners from the Zambezi region of Namibia towards physical education
Childhood obesity and its associated major health risk factors such as dyslipidaemia, type II diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease, is a growing problem across the globe, with physical inactivity being considered a major contributing factor. At present it appears that we are losing the fight against inactivity and obesity in young people. According to some researchers we are raising the most sedentary and unhealthy generation in history. However, the existence of Physical Education in schools is under continuous threat. An overview of the literature on the global status of Physical Education highlights the nonexistence of the subject in many parts of the world especially in developing regions, while some national governments proposed either the removal of Physical Education from the curriculum or a reduced curriculum time allocation. Therefore, the overall aim of the study is to assess the current status of Physical Education in the Zambezi region of Namibia and to assess the attitudes of senior secondary school learners towards the subject. Quantitative and qualitative research approaches were used to obtain information about the official status of Physical Education in Namibia and the Zambezi region in particular; whether it is offered and taught; barriers (facilities; teacher qualifications; time-tabling, etc.) and learners' experiences, feelings, beliefs and perceptions on the status of the subject in the region. Questionnaires and focus group discussions were used to gather the data. The study population consisted of all the PE teachers and Grade 11 and 12 learners from all 10 senior secondary schools in the Zambezi region. Learners' and teacher's responses to each item in the questionnaires were analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences V22 (SPSS) software programme. The study was conducted according to ethical practices pertaining to human subjects, as specified by the Faculty of Community and Health Sciences Research Ethics Committee of the UWC. A lack of qualified teachers was found to be one of the factors that cause low status of Physical Education in schools in the region. The study further found that lack or shortage of facilities was established to be a major crisis in all schools across the Zambezi Region. The 'non-educational' status of Physical Education come forth when earners were accorded time to express their feelings by answering the questions: "Do you consider Physical Education to be an important subject at a school?" and "Do you consider Physical Education to be as important as other subjects like Mathematics?" The findings too revealed that learners felt Physical Education is not as important as Mathematics, because Physical Education is a non promotional subject with no examinations written, while Mathematics is a promotional subject with examinations. Physical Education was found to be offered to both boys and girls without discrimination based on gender or cultural background. Girls and boys differed on all items tested. Boys were found to be a lot more negative about Physical Education. The study further found that monitoring, supervising and inspection of Physical Education in schools were inadequate. There were no inspectors from the regional education offices to oversee whether the subject was being taught according to the national standards outlined in the curriculum. Both phases of the study found that the school curriculum's goals and objectives were clearly stated in some of the schools' syllabi, though it was not fully emphasised or given effect to in the implementation phases. This was also one of the factors contributing to the low status of Physical Education in schools in which learners established that the curriculum was uninteresting.