By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK To take on the challenges and opportunities offered by a knowledge-based and innovation-driven economy, Namibians need to make a transition by changing and adjusting their basic attitudes, values and beliefs. The Minister of Education, Nangolo Mbumba, who was guest speaker at the Academic Welcoming 2006, gave this pedagogic advice last week to students and staff of the Polytechnic of Namibia. The annual event was held under the theme: “Innovation for Knowledge Based Economy”. “The Namibian government’s effort towards development is to a large extent hampered due to a lack of skilled labour in a country with a stagnant economic growth, unemployment, inequality in gender terms and a country devastated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The big challenge is therefore to move away from this unhealthy situation to a condition of social well-being,” Mbumba said. In his view, everyone must recognise that in a globalised knowledge-based economy the greatest resource for innovation and economic growth resides within a country’s classrooms. “To create a new generation of innovators, we in Namibia must call for qualified teachers in every math and science classroom. The government recognises that independent scientific research provides the foundation for innovation and future technologies. We should thus promote public and private partnerships that will translate new ideas into marketable technologies,” he said. Mbumba also stated that to create and sustain the future growth capacity of the country, limiting factors such as workforce transformation and innovation development need to be overcome. “In a knowledge-based economy, investment will be attracted by the availability of well-trained, qualified and committed people, who take pride in and excel in their jobs. This is why we need to invest in education for our young and lifelong learning and skills redevelopment of our workforce. We also need to attract global talents to add to our talent pool simply because the bigger and better the workforce in Namibia, the greater our growth capacity as a knowledge-based economy,” the minister asserted. “Innovation development is the other key factor. As we are moving towards a value adding economy and eventually towards a value creation economy, the combined effects of workforce transformation and innovation development will enable us to achieve a quantum leap in our growth capacity,” Mbumba, who also is of the opinion that education for empowerment is the key to wealth creation and social mobility, said. He encouraged local institutions of higher learning to effectively transform existing learning frameworks. “Traditional frameworks of disciplinary structures and hierarchical organisation of knowledge will not help Africa to address the challenges of the future. “Our institutions of higher learning should develop systems for the generation of new technologies, and apply technologies developed elsewhere to local conditions. Until they are able to do so, they cannot claim to be centres of excellence; neither can they be agents of social transformation or powerhouses of knowledge production. “They will continue to be poor imitations of institutions of higher learning,” Mbumba stated.
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