The National Qualifications Framework which is regrettably not defined in an understandable manner in the National Qualifications Act or any of the supplementary documents of the NQA uses 10 level descriptors in ascending order. The highest being a Doctoral Degree at level 10 and the lowest 1, equivalent to secondary school grade 9. (NQF 1 -3 relate to grades 12 and lower but not precisely in that order)
Diplomas and certificates range from levels 5 to 8 and 1 to 8 respectively. For the purpose of consistency and clarity, this article will concentrate on Bachelor Degree at level 7 to gauge the value of an academic degree in the Namibian job market.
Borrowing from the South African Qualifications Authority definition of level descriptors which is similar to that of Namibia, the NQF uses level descriptors to describe applied competencies across each of the ten levels of the NQF.
These applied competencies include the scope of knowledge at a certain level; knowledge literacy; method and procedure; problem solving, ethics and professional practice; accessing, processing and managing information; the production and communication of information; context and systems; management of learning; and accountability.
A Bachelor Degree at level 7 of the NQF consists of “knowledge of a major discipline with areas of specialization in depth.
Analysis, transformation and evaluation of abstract data and concepts in the creation of appropriate responses to resolve given or contextual abstract statements.
Carry out processes that require a command of highly specialized, technical or scholastic and basic research skills across a major discipline.
Application in complex, variable and specialized contexts. Planning, resourcing and managing processes within broad parameters and functions with complete accountability for determining, achieving and evaluating personal and/or group outcomes.”
In order to gain an understanding of the competencies of a bachelor graduate degree holder it is necessary to study the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) (NQF) level descriptors available at (http://www.saqa.org.za/docs/misc/2012/level_descriptors.pdf).
Rather than the Namibian version which is more or less a copy and paste summary that lacks detail in respect of the skill set and competencies of a degree holder. At level 7, a Bachelor Degree holder is well equipped in terms of competencies for a mid-level or management position in any of the few companies operating in the Namibian economy. These jobs are currently filled by equally qualified and competent individuals who have the competitive advantage of work experience over unemployed graduates.
Interestingly enough, one of the competencies required of a graduate at level 7 (SAQA)(NQA) is an understanding of “ Context and systems, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to manage processes in unfamiliar and variable contexts, recognizing that problem solving is context and system bound, and does not occur in isolation.”
A graduate who demands that the government give them a job that is unavailable shows an inability to understand the Namibian economy in its context of unemployment and the hostile, competitive, capitalist business world.
It can therefore be argued that they have not achieved the required competencies (understanding) to deserve the degree they parade when demanding jobs from the government. If they were really that qualified, they would humble themselves to the realities of a saturated job market and start working to expand it by doing whatever is necessary to participate in the country’s economy.
This can include being innovative and forming cooperatives instead of just being job seekers.
The youth’s ability to cooperate is evidenced by how they are able to come together at lightning speed to sabotage individuals like Dillish Mathews when she tries to engage on twitter on how best to address Namibia’s unemployment crisis.
The same capacity to cooperate should be harnessed in setting up cooperatives with like minded youths in addressing or taking advantage of one or other opportunity in the market.
Graduation ceremonies provide a false sense of achievement and entitlement in what Walter Rodney and Martin Luther King Jr would refer to as the dignity of labour.
Historical injustice and apartheid hangover have given many Namibian youth an inferiority complex which has led them to believe that any work that requires an exertion of one’s physical strength is below their dignity.
Manual labour is frowned upon as something to be scoffed at. This ignores the fact that Namibia is a developmental state that requires manpower to reach development status where a large middle class would occupy jobs that involve more intellect than body. The relevance of an academic qualification needs to be measured in terms of what that graduate can contribute to the economy of the country and not how the government of the country can contribute to the lifestyle of an individual.
At NQF level 3 an artisan / boiler maker/electrician is employable at a reasonably high salary (N$18 000 or more) in the private sector compared to what an employer would be prepared to offer a graduate in an entry level desk job (N$ 6000 or less).
These inconvenient truths speak to the unemployed youth of Namibia who have somewhat been deceived into thinking that by graduating with a Bachelors Degree they have reached the Promised Land.
The reality is that the saturated job market and slow economic growth in the country have rendered their qualifications irrelevant.
It is up to them to use their acquired knowledge through the course of their studies to pull themselves up by their own boot straps and figure out ways and means through which they can contribute to their society.
If this means dawning an overall in the course of seeking out a better life you might as well do so.
As long as you are waiting for someone in the government to do something about your social condition you are wasting the valuable time that is needed to change your own social condition.
Vitalio Angula is a socio-political commentator and independent columnist.