According to latest findings from a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) scoping mission operating under the directive of the Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, Itah Murangi-Kandjii, the quality of Vocational Education and Training system in Namibia leaves much to be desired.
The high profile UNESCO team was obligated to assess the current status of vocational education and training, identify strategic priorities and propose alternative interventions responding to those priorities.
The aim of this survey which commenced from the 18th to the 28th of April 2016 was to assist the newly established Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation (MHETI) in developing policies and programs related to the three pillars of its mandate.
According to the report, Namibia’s education system does not provide a strong enough foundation for vocational education and training.
Echoing the findings in the UNESCO scoping mission report, Dr. Chakroun, a UNESCO representative further underscores that the training system remains fragmented.
“Namibia’s vocational education and training system is fragmented between different types of providers and does not constitute a comprehensive and consistent network,” he says.
The VET system remains fraught with poor linkages with basic education with higher education and between its own components.
Key Issues arise regarding quantity, quality and relevance which explains why the VET system produces very small numbers of adequately skilled workers, reinforcing the dual nature of Namibia’s labor market.
Minister Murangi concurs with the findings and calls for an alignment of the system into a highly interconnected education system.
“These traditional fragmented programs and efforts must be aligned into a highly interconnected education system with clear progression paths and education systems with no dead ends,” she says.
Despite the constitutional commitment to education after independence which saw high levels of public expenditure translating to an increase of enrolment particularly at secondary and tertiary level, the task of building an inclusive and equitable education system remains unfinished.
In an exclusive engagement with this publication, Dr Chakroun points out that the vocational education and training system does not have the capacity to enroll enough students.
“The system lacks capacity to enroll sufficient number of trainees given the large youth population in this country, and largely excludes youth who cannot complete basic education,” he says.
The findings expose that many trainees still lack foundation skills and face precarious living conditions which hamper their ability to learn.
The daunting report further elucidates that while initial qualifications and training of trainers still appear inadequate, the equipment of training centres is sometimes deficient and remains outdated.
Higher Education, Training and Innovation Minister Itah Kandjii-Murangi reiterates that the technical and vocational education has great need for a thorough review to bring about a paradigm shift in the entire system.
“The clarion call to review, transform, align programs of study, properly articulate levels of education and training , to do away with dead ends in the system and to expand access is loudest for the technical and vocational education sub-sector,” says Murangi.
Responding to these daunting findings, in mapping the way forward Dr Chakroun reveals the need to position the VET system in a manner that makes it responsive to the labor market needs.
“The relevance of VET and higher education to labor market demand for skills is questioned. The great benefit of work-based learning needs to be realised systematically in VET and higher education. The government might consider the establishment of a unified framework for work-based learning, which should include a consistent legal framework, appropriate incentives particularly for SMEs, involvement and or integration of the various concerned bodies, quality assurance and development strategies, adequate financing arrangements, and an active promotion strategy,” says Chakroun.
There is great need to equalize the provision of VET across regions and review funding mechanisms to reduce disparities between VET centres.
The mission report highlights in bold that the present distribution of different types of VET providers reflects the history of Namibia rather than an assessment of the needs of each region for formal and non-formal VET which should be carried out.
While the use of English language as a medium of instruction remains poor, its use contributes to inequalities in the training system owing to the poor mastery of English by both trainers and trainees.
Policy options include investing in courses in English as a second language for trainers and trainees and envisaging the use of other languages.
Speaking to this publication former educationalist and Managing Director of Global Entrepreneurship Network-Namibia Johanna Cloete affirms that the findings are credible given the fact that they address the very contentious issues the nation is struggling with.
“It remains a fact that the vocational education and training system is poor, as such the fact finding mission brought out a credible report which needs urgent national attention,” she says.