Friday 14 May 2021
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Leadership void cripples research commission

The lack of leadership at the National Commission on Research Science and Technology(NCRST) is the primary reason that led to the crisis prevailing at the institution, the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation has said.
The ministry is worried about the impact of leadership at the institution which has since prompted mass resignations and impediments to fulfil its research mandate.
“Yes, we are worried… that is why we are impressing upon the Commission to do everything it can to appoint a CEO for the institution. If you do not have a head for an institution you will always have these problems,” the ministry’s permanent secretary Alfred van Kent he told The Patriot this week.
The PS said he requested the Council of the commission to provide a report to the ministry on why it is taking so long to appoint a CEO. Since Dr. Eino Mvula left NCRST mid-last year, more than 13 people quit the commission. The most recent person to quit is the deputy CEO, Diina Shuuluka. Her last working day is at the end of September.
There has been complaints about low wages, unattractive job conditions, insufficient funds for research programs, a lack of coordination among different research organisations, insufficient links with industry and a sense that the government has put research and innovation activities at the bottom of the list of priorities in a general budget squeeze.
There are also operational challenges which are crippling the institution, the workers said.
The commission’s Biotech Laboratory has been inaugurated but up to now it is not operational as consumables and other items still need to be procured.
The Patriot also understands that strategic documents such as Infrastructure Strategy, Space Science Policy were submitted to the Board but nothing has been done as far as implementation is concerned.
Van Kent dispelled talks that government is not serious when it comes to funding research and development programmes.
“We are committed to research because it is an important component of our development. The institution is of strategic nature because it enables us to build capacity and they help us to identify issues of strategic nature for government. As for the funding, we cannot ignore the fact that we are facing tough economic times as. But I can assure that we have identified resources for the institution,” he said.
Van Kent underscored the importance of addressing institutional issues at the various parastatals that falls under the higher education ministry.
He said the mere reason that the ministry has tasked the Council to fasten the recruitment process as a matter of priority is a reflection of the seriousness with “which we see the issue of research.”
“Our output as a country has grown because of the investment we made into research over the years and it has helped us to develop,” said the PS.
Several workers who spoke to this publication last week revealed that the lack of funding at the institution and the delayed implementation of salary increments are the predominant reasons that sparked the mass exit.
“People are scared, hence they went for greener pastures. There is also not much going on in terms of operations because the only projects being worked on are those that are externally funded and those through MoUs we have signed with our partners. We are underpaid compared to our counterparts at other companies and the management has been stalling the regrading exercise,” lamented one of the workers who opted not to be named.
Namibia is amongst the 30 lowest spenders on research and development in the world. The African Union has set a target of 1% of GDP invested on R&D, but data available to the UIS show that only three sub-Saharan African countries are close to this target: South Africa, Kenya and Senegal (around 0.8% in all three countries).
According to UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, Namibia research and development spending as a percentage of GDP stands at a meagre 0.3%.
When it comes to human resources, Namibia has 143 researchers per million inhabitants.

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