The Executive Director of National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) Mocks Shivute has opposed claims often made by employers that tertiary institutions in the country produce graduates that are not up to scratch. Shivute believes graduates from public tertiary institutions in the country are just as good as those educated abroad and that the poor quality graduate claims from the job market are just mere perception. In an interview with The Patriot this week, Shivute said there is no “scientific” proof to justify the claims that state-owned institutions produce poor quality graduates as per the claims in certain sectors in society. “There is no scientific proof to that effect; at times it is just the perception of people who believe that whoever is trained beyond the Namibian borders is better qualified than locally trained. But also, it depends in which fields students have studied. First of all, there are not enough job placements, if you have 10 000 graduates a year, you don’t expect all of them to get employment the same year,” said Shivute.
Shivute said the presence of Namibian graduates in different sectors of the economy is proof that the country’s top institutions, the Namibia University of Science (NUST) and Technology and the University of Namibia (UNAM) produce quality and market absorbable graduates. “There are many graduates from our own universities, if you look at the professors at UNAM and NUST, they are graduates of those institutions,” charged Shivute. Shivute, however, acknowledged that in some cases, graduates do lack the necessary skills to make them employable but attributed that to “lack of internship opportunities”. “In some cases, it could be (poor quality graduates) and that is because of lack of attachment. When you do your course you must at least get attached or seconded to a certain industry to acquire experience. And that does not happen simply because there is no policy which compels the employers to accept students from NUST or UNAM,” lamented Shivute.
Shivute called on students to acquaint themselves with national development plans such Vision 2030 upon choosing the careers that they would like to pursue. “There are people who studied Public Administration or HR (human resources), but there are very few jobs (in the market). Students must acquaint themselves with Vision 20130, the national development plans (NDPs) because there are high priority sectors which have been identified,” noted Shivute. The high priority sectors as laid out in Vison 2030 and the NDPs include transport and tourism, among others, which makes it difficult for students to get employment if they study outside these fields. “Within the national development plans, there are high priority areas; these are transport, communication and tourism. Now, if you go and do (study) something out of those fields, it becomes difficult to find employment. Who will provide you with employment,” asked Shivute.
The decision by Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein to reduce budgets of government ministries has left many public institutions stranded; NUST and UNAM were not spared either as the cuts significantly affected the implementation of the funding framework. “The funding framework is meant for the public high education institutions (NUST and UNAM), they have their ongoing projects, both capital and operational. In the absence of adequate funding, the programmes will be affected. You recently read in the papers on the measures UNAM took, no more part-time lecturers, they are unable to recruit, and to carry out certain activities,” Shivute lamented. On NUST, the NCHE executive pointed out the newly transformed Technicon has been unable to turn into a fully flagged university due to lack of resources. “NUST needed adequate funding to implement their ongoing programmes and to transform from the old polytechnic into a university. A university is a special status which requires certain things in place, for instance NUST has over 10 000 students, but its hostel can only accommodate 600 students,” charged Shivute.
Moreover, NUST has been unable to put in place sport facilities, which is a “normal requirement” at any university. “NUST does not have any sports facilities, which at any normal university is a requirement. There is no recreational facility, not because of space but also because of funding,” charged Shivute. Similarly, as a direct result of budget cuts, NCHE has been forced to turn away new intakes for its staff development programme. The staff development programme is aimed at improving the quality of higher education in Namibia by providing training to academic staff at UNAM and NUST to improve their qualifications. Shivute said NCHE cannot take in new academics because the Ministry of Higher Education has suspended the funds for the said programme. “We still have some academics on the programme but we cannot take in new ones because of lack of funds. Universities must have competent stuff at the level of PhDs. But if you go to our universities, the majority (PhD holders) are foreigners. But we want that after a certain period, all lecturers must have a PhD, that’s why that programme was set up,” concluded Shivute.