Thursday 22 March 2018
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Namibia’s elusive education dream

As we round off 2017- particularly with the outcome of the Junior Secondary Certificate (JSC) and Namibia Senior Secondary Certificate (NSSC) and the overall state of the education sector – it is only fitting to dissect and analyse the contributing factors and suggest remedies thereof for the struggling education system.
At the dawn of independence in 1990, the Namibian government was met by a plethora of challenges, one of such impediments was an education sector which was divided along race and class.
Most Namibians were marginalised with little or no access to education. This meant that government had to invest heavily in education, if addressing past injustices were anything to go by.
Immediately, the founding administration prioritized education, so as to ensure that Namibians who were deprived of and oppressed through education had access to educational facilities and institutions.
It was during this time that institutions of higher learning such as the Polytechnic of Namibia (now Namibia University of Science and Technology), Namibia College of Open Learning, vocational training centres and dozens of primary and secondary schools across the country were opened.

The succeeding administrations did not shy away from spending extravagantly on education. Of course spending on education was welcomed, but the question that always lingered was whether the input matched the output.
To this day, education continues to enjoy the lion’s share from the national budget. But are we really getting the bang for the buck? With the amount of resources that government puts into education, are we getting value for the money as a country?
Any investor will tell you that, after pumping funds, time or energy into a project, one expects worthwhile results, hence the concept return on investment (ROI).
Return on investment is the measure of gain or loss generated on an investment relative to the amount of money invested. The Namibian government is no exception in this regard.
In the last two years alone, government allocated N$24,29 billion. The figure increases as you go down memory lane to 1990.

I am not trying to ridicule government’s efforts to improve the education sector. I am more concerned about the output when one considers the resources government has invested and continues to invest.
Does our government really have the best interest as a nation on the education front at heart? If so, why is it that year-in-year-out we continue to celebrate mediocrity in the form of minimum pass rates for grade 10 and grade 12 examinations?
As things stand, 22 462 JSC candidates have qualified for admission to Grade 11 in 2018, a slight increase when compared to 21 291 in 2016.
The importance of education cannot be overemphasised.  Indeed it is the greatest equaliser.

Without doubt, education can put people on the right trajectory towards good health, empowerment and employment. Education also helps in building more peaceful societies.
At first glance, it would appear that our government is committed to improving the standards of education. But a microscopic analysis into Namibia’s education paints a rather different picture.
And as long as we continue to prioritise quantity over quality, we should not expect much to change.
At present, the education sector is faced with serious quandaries, from maladministration, mismanagement and miscued priorities.
Supremely, there is an uncertainty over the sustainability of universal free education.

Whether free education was a genuine move to make education accessible to all Namibians or a mere politically inspired move to score political points, is a debate for another day.
For now, the time is ripe for us as a collective to look at how we can improve the efficiency of what government pumps into education. As education stakeholders and role players, we ought to identify ways in which we can improve the overall performance within schools and also in the different higher learning institutions. We meet in 2018 to investigate this further, but spend some time this holiday to think about it.

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