By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Seen as a new lease of life for the ailing local and regional authorities in the country and with the spirit to promote decentralisation, yesterday saw the launch of a new Certificate in Local Government Studies course. Initiated by the Namibian College of Open Learning (NAMCOL), the yearlong course aims at providing support for the decentralisation and democratisation process in Namibia, boosting the capacity of regional and local authority officials who participate in the programme as well as serve as a career opportunity for school leavers. So far, 152 students comprising regional and local authorities officials and school leavers have enrolled for the course that started on Monday this week. Officially launching the tailor-made programme yesterday, Deputy Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development Kazenambo Kazenambo welcomed the initiative that is so closely associated with the ministry’s decentralisation process. “The course is equipping you as local authority officials in how to deal with people and communities with diverse backgrounds. It takes government to the people and it allows people to take part in decision making on the ground that is closely hinged on decentralisation,” said the deputy minister. He noted that education and interaction are the key to empowering local communities, despite their diverse backgrounds. Referring to those in government positions at local and regional levels, Kazenambo said the aim is to unlock the human capacity on the ground rather than focussing on themselves. “Let us not use our political or socio-economic power to strangle those in unfortunate positions,” he added. The main sentiment from other speakers was the concern over the negative image of local authorities portrayed over the past few years due to mismanagement and mal-administration. It was however found that a course like this one will go a long way in turning the situation around for the benefit of local authorities and ultimately the people at the grassroots level. “Shockingly, the whole Local Government, and I suppose Regional Government, has been known as (being) in chaos, ill administration, infighting among elected leaders and officials and the desired results are nowhere to be witnessed,” said Pio Nganate, Vice President of the Association of Local Authorities in Namibia (ALAN). He added that unless local and regional councillors have the vital knowledge through recently launched courses like this one, they would keep on doing a “disservice to our people”. Furthermore, education is seen as the master key in avoiding what Nganate termed as brain drain and keeping the 16 years of good local governance intact. Nganate noted further that “time has come to stop blaming government for everything that is not going well due to our own making”, but rather focusing on making it right through acquiring skills and knowledge. He said that through the new study programme, time has come to “restore the chaos (of local authorities) into order”. Special assistant to the mayor of Windhoek who represented the president of the Association for Regional Councillors Kakuna Kandjavera said there is a lack of researchers and professionals in this particular field. That is why the new course is seen as remedying this situation for effective local authorities. Expressing the same sentiment, Director of NAMCOL Frances Mensah said the new course will equip Namibians with skills in managing government affairs at that level. However, since only one councillor is currently taking part in the programme, Mensah noted with concern that the majority of municipalities and village councils have enrolled officials only. “If councillors are not skilled and equipped, not only will they frustrate the qualified officials, but they will also compromise their own positions as decision makers,” said Mensah, urging more councillors to take part in the course. The course consists of seven modules, namely English and General Communication, Regional and Local Government in Namibia, Local Democracy and Good Governance, Basics of Local Government Economics, Local Public Finance and Accounting, Regional and local Government Administration as well as Introduction to Community Development.
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