By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Land reform, the education crisis, escalating crime, corruption and poverty were the critical issues that dominated a panel discussion on Wednesday at the University of Namibia held under the topic: “16 Years of Political Stability and Democratic Governance in Namibia.” Cited as pertinent challenges facing the country 16 years down the line, both panellists and the audience expressed concern about the current challenges facing the nation. Although Namibia has successfully managed to remain a relatively peaceful and stable country over the years through effective democratic rule, it is apparent that there are still critical issues that need to be addressed in the future. Celebrations to mark Independence Day next week Tuesday, is seen as an occasion to take stock of past accomplishments and reflect on current demands and future challenges. Addressing the fully packed hall, one of the panellists and Member of Parliament Arnold Tjihuiko sounded a warning, saying current challenges facing the country after 16 years should be viewed as “red light flashes” . Singling out first the apparent failing education system, Tjihuiko said while 60 percent of the country’s population is made up of young people, half of them end up on the streets after failing Grade 12. “We are now building up an army of young frustrated people and we are sitting on a time bomb,” said Tjihuiko, adding that Government should take the initiative to prevent the downward trend in education. He however commended Government for maintaining political stability and peace, adding that the focus should now be on tackling socio-economic issues. The ongoing talk about the state of education is not a new topic and the mere mention of this topic stirred further concerns from the audience. Sentiments have been that the Cambridge System has produced very little positive results over the past 16 years. “It is sickening to see young people having classes under trees in the Kavango Region after 16 years of independence,” commented one member of the audience, adding that the failure rate is increasing because teachers are not products of the Cambridge System themselves. However, Prime Minister Nahas Angula who was one of the panellists said Namibians tend to only focus on the negative and never the successes achieved over the years. The Premier noted that 95 percent of school-going children are in school today and just recently Namibia received its first batch of newly graduated doctors through the same Cambridge System. Moving on to poverty, views were expressed that there is still a widening gap between the rich and poor as well as growing elitism. Cited as “politics of exclusion” by the audience, the fight against poverty is yet to gain momentum where over 60 percent of Namibians still live below the breadline, said some members of the audience. The Premier said the focus should be on transformational governance where the country fights against exclusion through transformation in order to address poverty levels more effectively. On democratic governance, Professor Du Pisani, political science lecturer at the University of Namibia, said while Namibians have enjoyed an abundance of democracy over the past 16 years, citizens did not make use of their democratic rights. ” We have a sound supply of democracy, but a limited demand from the populace. This is a grave concern because if we want to stay democratically healthy as a nation, we have to work for it, engage for it and be pro-active,” said Du Pisani. A lack of demand in a democracy “transpired” because citizens are still not fully aware of their rights to articulate what they want from the government they elected into power. “Most of the time we criticise, but although we’ve got all the rights in Namibia for free speech, we don’t use it,” said community activist Uncle Paul, who was also part of the panel discussion. Moving on to land reform and expropriation of land in the country, Member of Parliament Arnold Tjihuiko lamented the fact that the process might be hindered by the limited available land space. “The Namibian population is growing, but land is not growing and not all previously disadvantaged Namibians will own a farm,” explained Tjihuiko. The tendency over the years has been that formerly disadvantaged Namibians get land back from the few that own it, but the MP’s said expropriation will not solve the problem wholly, because there would be no land left at the end of the day. He recommended that Namibians be encouraged to seek alternative means of income either through small business projects or small mining. Concern was also expressed about the escalating criminal activities where bizarre murders and rapes are taking place. “If fathers are raping their own kids, then something is wrong with society and we are in trouble if this trend continues,” concluded Tjihuiko. In light of the upcoming independence celebrations come Tuesday next week, UNAM hosted panel discussions and public lectures this week to reflect on the past achievements and current challenges that lie ahead.
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