We Need to Rise to Science Challenge – Minister

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Unless Namibians rise to the challenge of doing away with negative misconceptions and enhance the overall scientific landscape in the education system, the country will not be able to attain a knowledge-based industrialized economy. The Minister of Education, Nangolo Mbumba, said this on Friday at the launch of an international Mathematics Exhibition of Unesco in the capital. “Science and technology, including mathematics, are seen as key drivers for propelling Namibia from its current state of development to the envisaged state of a knowledge-based industrialized country. A decline in interest in pursuing careers in basic sciences has become a global trend and thus a threat to the advancement of science-based industrialization,” said Alfred Ilukena, Under-Secretary Of Education, who spoke on behalf of the Education Minister. According to him, the Ministry of Education is looking at ways and means to enhance the overall scientific landscape in the country. “One crucial challenge that needs to be addressed is to do away with negative misconceptions about science and mathematics subjects, especially in the education system. Such misconceptions range from mathematics being difficult, boring and not meant for the poor,” he stated. “These perceptions need to be changed. This exhibition can help to break down the invisible barriers and negative connotations that have surrounded the subject for too long,” he told a large number of learners and teachers at the gathering at Khomasdal’s RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Foundation. In some off-the-cuff remarks, Ilukena said mathematics is perceived in Namibian schools akin to going on a voyage to the moon without a spare space ship to return to earth. “Do not listen to the doubting Thomases arguing that the country will never produce its own scientists and engineers. Most teachers know mathematics. They only struggle to transfer their knowledge in a methodical manner to the learners,” said Ilukena. “There is no consciousness of the essential role that mathematics plays in the technology that we use everyday as well as in the economic and financial markets. The intention therefore is for learners and the public to experience mathematics in a conceptualized design to promote public appreciation of its importance,” he stressed. The minister also expressed delight that through the exhibition, teachers and learners are experiencing mathematics in a tangible manner and that they will pursue careers with the subject as a main choice. “We have to work together towards a society that fully recognizes and appreciates the importance of scientific advancement in order for us to enhance economic prosperity for our people, Africa and the world at large. I hope as Namibians we will pool our resources and actively participate in activities of this nature now and in the future,” he said at the event that was sponsored by Unesco, the French Embassy and Petrofund Namibia. The minister overall encouraged both teachers and learners to embrace natural sciences as options for future prosperity and employment. “For the teachers present here today, use this opportunity to enhance your knowledge and understanding of the methodologies of teaching mathematics in order for you to improve on your practice and classroom delivery of the subject. We can keep on blaming each other day in and day out as well as point fingers, but unless we rise to the challenge, we will not be able to transform our society into a knowledge-based economy as is envisaged in Vision 2030,” the minister warned. Dr Claudia Harvey, the country representative of Unesco, in a speech read on her behalf, stated that science and technology constitute an indispensable effort to achieve sustainable development. “All citizens from all countries, young and old, should possess adequate scientific knowledge and skills in the twenty-first century. However, there is a noticeable diminishing interest among both youth and adults in basic sciences, technology and engineering studies and careers. It is therefore imperative to make education in science and technology more attractive and relevant,” Harvey urged. The mobile exhibition will be staged for a week at schools in the capital from today after which it will be taken to fifteen other Namibian towns for the next two months.