By Kelvin Chiringa
September 2016
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Namibia Statistics Agency’s (NSA) Statistician General, Alex Shimuafeni, admits that the current statistics in the education sector may not be an accurate reflection of what is on the ground due to a cocktail of obstacles hampering quality and comprehensive data collection.
Speaking to Prime Focus Magazine recently, Shimuafeni reveals that although Namibia Statistics Agency exists to produce and disseminate relevant, quality and timely statistics, the data the agency is collecting in terms of education is very limited.
“The data sources for the education statistics are limited to only the Ministry of Education, Universities (UNAM, NUST and IUM), as well as the National Council for Higher Education,” he tells Prime Focus Magazine.
The Statistics General takes a swipe at private institutions as defeating the NSA’s efforts of assembling data especially the collection of the next generation of indicators to measure the sustainable development goal 4 which gives precedence to education.
“Private Institutions are not currently compelled to provide data and this situation will not give a true reflection of the enrolment figures country wide,” he says.
Commenting on these challenges rocking NSA’s efforts towards attaining comprehensive data, United Nations (UN) representative and Head of Office (UNESCO) Windhoek Dr. Jean-Pierre Ilboudo hints that this has come in time to effecting policy formulation which relies on credible quality information.
“Policy cannot be well done and appropriate if it is not informed by data, this is a big problem but not for Namibia alone but the generality of African countries. We need really to set up, very systematic systems of data collection that is inclusive of everybody,” says Ilboudo.
In an exclusive interview with this publication, Dr Ilboudo bemoaned the absence of the will by stakeholders to strengthen and support the national statistics agency including those in the rest of Africa as a prelude to the acquisition of informed, solid and credible statistics that steers policy makers into making sound decisions.
“We must strengthen our national statistics agency and system, if we do not do this it would be very difficult for us to have informed statistics and to have informed policies and this is very important,” he says.
He reveals that UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), the leading global data and repository for all UNESCO fields of competence which has regional statistical staff located in Africa, was making colossal efforts to engage private institutions in a bid to invite them to the educational data submission table.
“UNESCO Institute of Statistics from Montreal (UIS) is supporting each UNESCO member council and we now have a new policy which stems from the new director from Montreal to engage all the private sector and other stakeholders, and am sure that there would be a big change in regard to data collection,” he tells Prime Focus.
However the Statistician General further reveals to Prime Focus that although Namibia Statistical Agency could not determine the physical schools as well as teachers and pass rates from the household surveys that it always conducts, efforts to procuring substantial information are further being crippled by the fact that School and University students were not being interviewed in the data collection modus operandi.
While students are a major part and reason for the collection of educational data, despite their being the most open of sources Shimuafeni does not give reason as to why they are being left out but shoulders the blame on compromised research methodologies which has seen the national data collectors conducting shallow desk top researches.
“If you do desk top research you take secondary data that is there and analyse, but if you want to get to the root of the problem you also need to talk about people who are involved. You are talking about teen-age pregnancy, school drop outs and so on, you will not have quality research if you do not speak to the people who are involved. Often the school going child or the student at university are not being interviewed with most of the studies, if at all,” he says.
Shimuafeni lambasts such gross incompetence in educational research as jeopadising the credibility of data as it comes in time to present a missed opportunity that can lead to a better understanding of school drop outs and other socio-economic factors that have negative influence on school attendance.
He lays out the need to utilize latest technologies in the collection of information since it is time efficient while statisticians from the education Ministry need to liaise closely with NSA to bring out the best out of data collection and analyses.
“We need to harmonise our data collection efforts to create that comparability with the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) mandate of collecting internationally comparable statistics on culture, communication, education and science,” he tells Prime Focus.
Speaking to Gambia’s Basic and Secondary Education Alpha Bah who was in Namibia recently for a regional workshop on education statistics for Eastern and Southern African countries, Prime Focus understands that there is inadequate funding not only in Namibia but other African states as well for the national statistics agencies to conduct in-depth research on education.
“Without quality data then there is no policy. You cannot improve the education sector based on compromised and misinforming data, as such there is a need to properly fund national statistics agencies so that they can conduct indepth research and bring out credible information,” he says.