Education Planners Gather for Urgent Workshop

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Education planners have to adopt a broad sector-wide perspective for proactivity instead of reactive planning in the education system, Deputy Minister of Education, Dr Becky Ndjoze-Ojo, told education planners on Tuesday. She was speaking at a three-day workshop in the capital. The emergency workshop was urgently convened by the Ministry of Education with the financial assistance from UNESCO after criticism of and pressure on educational planners to properly do their job, from the National Assembly and teachers’ unions. The ministry sees the workshop as a forerunner to the newly designed ETSIP programme that will be discussed in April. “This workshop aims to discuss the inseparable relationship between timely, reliable information as a bridge to informed decision-making and therefore proper planning. It could not have come at a better time. Now is still the beginning of the year, which marks the beginning of the implementation of the first phase of ETSIP,” Ndjoze-Ojo said in her opening remarks. According to her, the focus of education planners had for the past ten years primarily been on basic education. “ETSIP is a comprehensive 15-year strategic plan for the entire education and training sector. There are many problems and challenges that need to be tackled now and along the way in order to achieve the programme’s objectives. This calls for reorganisation and for new ways of doing things,” Ndjoze-Ojo, who made a number of apparent long ignored basic suggestions to the education planners, said. More analytical work, proper knowledge, skills, methodologies and techniques in regional and international education planning trends as well as consultations and collaboration with others within the ministry of education are some of the elementary requirements for better education planning, the deputy minister proposed. “Strategic thinking, critical thinking and action research should form part of the tools education planners use. There exist many misconceptions about education in the public domain due to ignorance. You should double your efforts to dispel these misconceptions with correct facts and figures. Without timely, reliable and empirical information, it would be difficult to manage the education system,” the deputy minister warned in response to critique leveled at the education planners. She encouraged education planners to plan now for January 2007 and to make accurate projections. “You as education planners must proactively come up with practical solutions, which are appropriately informed by theory married to practice. Only then, can the quality of education delivery and efficiency be enhanced,” she said at the workshop, which ends today. On Monday, the deputy minister also officiated at a one-day Southern African intensive training workshop on educational costs management, finance and budgeting in the capital. “In Namibia education faces major challenges in utilizing and allocating its dwindling resources to areas that need urgent prioritisation. With the ever decreasing budget of the Ministry of Education, there is a need to skillfully learn how to do more with less,” Ndjoze-Ojo told the delegates. She contented that more than 80% of her ministry’s budget goes to personnel costs leaving 20% for educational development needs. “This is an anomaly that must be addressed and resolved. Namibian education planners, financial planners and accountants need to become skilled at using limited resources to effectively address weaknesses in the education sector,” Ndjoze-Ojo, who suggested that salary increases in the education sector be kept at zero for a number of years as a cost-cutting measure, asserted. According to her, the ETSIP programme will run into billions of Namibian dollars, which her ministry does not have. “For the Ministry of Education to provide quality education to all Namibian citizens, we need all hands on deck and in this the role of the private sector is indispensable,” she told the delegates from Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and South Africa.