Poly SRC weighs on name change

By By Michael Tambo
July 2011
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The Polytechnic of Namibia Students Representative Council Committee (SRC) sees the first ever-national educational conference in Namibia as an opportunity and appropriate platform to discuss the institution’s name change and University status. The Polytechnic of Namibia has, for a number of years, attempted to change its name and mandate to that of the “Namibia University of Science and Technology” (NUST). The institution went as far as adopting this name on its website and in most of its official communication.

Recently, Minister of Education, Honorable Abraham Iyambo, was quoted saying that the request for a name change by the Polytechnic to the University of Science and Technology, is still under consideration and that Cabinet had requested the Ministry to carry out a study in this regard which will be undertaken by the Council for Higher Education later this year. A different tone from his predecessor, Nangula Mbumba, who seemed to have shut the door on name change.

But the Polytechnic of Namibia SRC Committee thinks the issue should be part of the Education Conference agenda as it is sensitive to many students and will gain more momentum if it is discussed at such a grand occasion.

“The renaming of the institution is one of the outstanding issues that have been in the pipe line for a long time now. I really feel that time has come where we as a nation need to focus on what is important for the future of this country,” says SRC President, Ashwell Forbes.

“The Polytechnic of Namibia has a mandate, that is of a university and that is why the students are requesting a name change. In most countries around the world, you will find two types of universities, namely a traditional and a technical university.

“These two institutions are there to complement each other and thereby lead to the completion and fulfillment of Vision 2030,” Forbes adds.

Rector of the Polytechnic of Namibia, Professor Tjama Tjivikua has previously argued that the symbolic meaning of a name determines “how we perceive, classify and respond to the other. If the name of a person or entity, or an institution does not conjure the right image, that is, an image which is commensurate with the true nature and character of the institution, this compromises chances for self-assertion, representation, but also growth and productivity”.

“The Polytechnic by its statutory mandate and in the meantime by its structure and performance is a university in its true sense of the definition. Intentionally, those universities which have substantially engaged in cooperation and partnerships with us have always and without hesitation acknowledged this fact. On the other hand, some desirable international partners have however shown their reluctance to collaborate with institutions other than “university” by name. This is a hindrance to unlocking the full potential of the second Namibian public tertiary institution, a mistake which Namibia cannot afford to entertain,” Dr Tjivikua said.

One of the major challenges the SRC mentioned is the annual increase in tuition fees which contradicts with inadequate resources and infrastructure, and this according to them, is making tertiary education more of a commodity to be consumed by those who afford.

“Tertiary education in today’s life is becoming a commodity as many students cannot afford it anymore and are left with no choice, but to drop out of school. A solution to the high fees in tertiary education is a speedy implementation of the funding formula and this will moderate increase in tuition fees for a long period of time,” says Forbes.

Emilia Uupindu, the Polytechnic of Namibia’s SRC’s member responsible for Gender, Health and Social Welfare Emilia says, “The Government’s good efforts will be in vain if we do not revise our education system. I feel that the Namibian Government should conduct its own research that will deal with issues affecting Namibian education sector. As long as we do not move away from IGCSE, core in particular, we will not achieve the standard of education we are striving for.

Uupindu also expressed her concern on the poor state of IT at the institution saying the computer laboratories and internet café do not have enough computers to accommodate all students.

“We have a computer usage skill course at the Polytechnic, but the computers are not enough as some students have to share a computer. I call upon the Government and the private sector to invest more in Information Technology,” says Uupindu. PF