The historic forum for dialogue created by the first ever National Education Conference (June 27-July 01 2011) under the theme, “Collective delivery of the Education Promise: Improving the education and training system for quality learning outcomes and quality of life,” has placed Namibia among countries working towards creating one of the best education systems on the continent.
The plot of the conference held for all education stakeholders was set around, discussions on the reforms needed to build an effective and relevant educational system for the sustainable development of the country.
Namibia just like Africa’s advantage lies in its youth and in the dynamism of its population, but unlike much of Africa, it has been disadvantaged by its education system.
The week long dialogue is necessary to meet the challenges facing education in the country. The view is that Government and its internal and external partners as well as private stakeholders in education exchange knowledge and experiences and develop shared views concerning the challenges and the strategies that should be used to tackle them.
As a developmental publication, we decided to serve as a catalyst for reform through the pooling of stakeholders’ thoughts, learners’ experience, lessons learnt and expertise, with a special focus on education this month.
Prime Focus’ July edition, seeks to shed more light on education and related issues and add a platform for in-depth debate on education by discussing with the heroes and several stakeholders especially those on the ground on how they have managed to keep the ship sailing.
Indeed, Namibia is seen as a ray of hope for Africa, with a huge reservoir of natural resources to meet, not only its own needs, but also those of other regions in the world. However, availability of these natural resources does not automatically guarantee the country’s development.
For example, I agree with students and administrators who have complained that the majority of our educational institutions do not meet market needs. There has been no focused attention on ensuring that we have enough graduates for the fishing industry, the mining industry and the tourism industry, all key contributors to the GDP.
Instead, most of our graduates have gone into the usual mainstream fields, HR, media, accounting and social work, with hardships even, while top major industries have not been catered for.
Many have blamed the high unemployment rate, already a major barrier for economic growth, to the skills gap. It is skills gap which has resulted in the lack of labour intensive producing industries, weak domestic market and low investment rates.
Namibia has taken a bold step towards harnessing the potential of education by investing more resources into the sector, using some of the billions of dollars freed up by debt cancellation to help improve education.
Government has been investing large amounts of money into the system, around 20% of the national budget is spent annually to maintain and improve the system. Yet the many obstacles remained. Currently, the system is faced with serious weaknesses in the provision of education to all. Additionally, the quality of education, quality of teachers and the performance of learners have been unsatisfactory. The Ministry of Education is drafting an improvement program that is known as the ETSIP (Education and Training Sector Improvement Program). The ETSIP aims to align the entire Namibian education system to Namibia’s Vision 2030 and the needs of the Namibian population.
It is, therefore, the desire of many for this improvement program to be the highlight of the post-conference analysis.
While many still argue that the current state of affairs in education is a legacy of colonial times, the question which remains to be answered until this July is why independent Namibia has not managed to overcome those education weaknesses. Hence this scrutiny is essential. PF