Despite the social sector receiving N$28.5 billion which makes up 43.2% of total expenditure for the financial year of 2016/2017, the education system remains not only poor but unequal, reveals a United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report.
Speaking to Prime Focus, leader of the UNESCO education quality scoping mission tasked by Higher Education Minister, Dr Borherne Chakroun exposes that despite the constitutional commitment to education bolstered by sound budget allocations which is higher than the international benchmark, the education system still remains unequal.
“The public expenditure in education by the government is higher than the international benchmark, so compared to other countries the investment in education is even higher, yet that investment is not leading to better outcomes. Inequality in education is Namibia’s greatest failure,’ says Chakroun.
National University of Science and Technology Professor Sylvester Moyo in an exclusive interview with this publication expresses shock and queries why inequalities appear in resources at a time government showed passionate commitment to investing in education.
“Government is spending so much money in education but for some reason, I do not know what, the gains that are expected from this investment are not coming out. This is an area that needs to be tackled. Where is this money going? Why is it not making a difference? What exactly is the problem, is it distribution, is it the use at the end?” queries the professor.
UNESCO further reinforces that the many short comings of the education system implies that low and unequally distributed levels of education among the youth and adults who make up the labor force will persist into the future.
The disparities and unequal nature of the education system appears in the distribution of resources, quality of infrastructure and educational content between primarily urban based and rural based schools.
Higher Education Innovation and Training Minister Itah Kandjii-Murangi concurs with the findings and says they stand to inform the Ministry better in the development of the country’s National Resources Development Plan which falls within the remit of her ministry.
“Education is given a pivotal role in the national as well as international development agenda. These findings are also going to inform the strategic direction and focus of the Ministry in answering to other related development aspirations. It is an opportune time to discuss (the findings) on tertiary education now,” she says.
UNESCO however highlights that the persistence of extreme inequality is Independent Namibia’s greatest failure and comes in time to jeopardize the country’s future.
From this backdrop, the call for building a strong foundation for training and higher education stands paramount and this calls for the support and expansion of early childhood care and education and the universalization of primary education of good quality, UNESCO reveals.
UNESCO’s report further affirms that the decisive policy for equalizing opportunity in the long term is outside the specific mandate of the Ministry of Higher Education Training and Innovation.
It thus calls for the ministry to play a part, through joint political and advocacy and through the provision of specialized training, for instance programs for professionals in early childhood issues.
Dean of the faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia Professor Jairos Kangira speaking to this publication in a telephone interview says although he had not done any research to bring out results that would concur with the UNESCO findings, his students was carrying out a thesis that investigates such anomalies in the education system.
He however concurs that much needs to be done to put patches to the visible loop holes in rural schools and some urban schools infra-structure-wise.
“I didn’t know that leaners in this country can learn under a tree or shacks, when we talk of libraries, where would you put a library in a shack or under a tree, how can students read and do a research under such impossible situations?” queries Professor Kangira.
“I have not as yet done a study on that, but my student is doing a thesis titled Multi-Grade System in Education, so she is saying that under the same tree, you find students of many grades scattered about. And although I do not have figures to support the UNESCO findings, but it is a true reflection of what is happening,” he says.
The inequitable distribution of resources and contrasts in the delivery of quality content in the education system results in the lower hierarchy of education spilling into the upper strata students who are ill prepared for university, Namibia University of Science and technology (NUST) Professor Moyo tells Prime Focus.
“If we talk about the hierarchy of education, there is obviously a disjointed line between the lower levels of academia feeding into the upper level. By that I mean our schools are producing students that are not ready for university education, and this is an issue that we really have to tackle seriously,” says Professor Moyo.
The professor submits that issues of equality and quality have to be fixed at the lower level to bring students to a level where they can receive and appreciate university education.
“I am into sciences, obviously what we notice is that sciences are taught in rurals, but most of the schools teach science without laboratories, the question is how do you teach science without a laboratory? It becomes a paradox. And in that sense, there is an equation that is not equal when it comes to rural versus urban schools,” he says.
From this backdrop, the Global Agenda of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number four, calls for inclusive, quality and equitable education and the promotion of lifelong learning.