Education Ministry Under Fire

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The local business fraternity yesterday heavily criticised the Ministry of Education for using unworkable strategies in the implementation of the country’s troubled education system. This was said at a breakfast meeting between the architects of the Ministry of Education’s ETSIP programme and business people, which gathering was sponsored by the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) at the NamPower Convention Centre. “I don’t think the Ministry of Education have the right strategies in place to successfully implement programmes the way it should be done. The said ministry should look at its operations from a corporate business perspective in which certain rules and principles apply,” said business tycoon, Harold Pupkewitz. The Minister of Education, Nangolo Mbumba, formally explained the ETSIP programme to the meeting, assisted by Education Under Secretary Justin Ellis. According to Pupkewitz, the Government has committed considerable resources to education and training since Independence with little or no impact on the quality of output from junior, senior vocational or tertiary education. “Social tensions are building up as poorly educated youths are frustrated by the lack of opportunities. Schools are contacting the private sector directly with requests for assistance for the very basics – toilets, fencing, classroom repairs, etc. not to mention schoolbooks and teaching equipment. Education management is clearly in a crisis,” Pupkewitz explained. Poor schools output translates into poor input into tertiary and vocational training, it was noted by one of the participants at the breakfast meeting. “The abject failure of vocational training over the past 15 years is readily seen in the dismal output of competent artisans and poor quality of tertiary and university graduates. Namibia is now suffering from skills anorexia – we are in a downward spiral since we do not have enough skilled technical and managerial people to pass on their skills to the next generation – this is clearly visible in the education sector but is equally true of all sectors of our economy,” Pupkewitz said. The respected businessman’s advice to the Ministry of Education was that Namibians must take ownership of the education problem in the country. “We cannot drive to Vision 2030 by looking in the rear-view mirror. It does not matter where you come from, what matters is where you are going to. “Start managing the Ministry of Education professionally. Change the disciplinary rules to allow much easier dismissal for non-conformance to rules. Stop begging for more money from the private sector and show that the ministry can handle the present budget correctly,” he urged the Education Ministry. Len Roux reminded those present that the private sector already contributes a lot towards the improvement of education in the country. “The problem is that we have a shotgun approach because the input into education is not focused or organised. Furthermore, there is no incentive from government for private sector input and contributions towards education,” Le Roux charged. Mike Hill wondered why the Ministry of Education expects the business sector to financially contribute towards education if the institution regularly struggles with a 24 percent absenteeism problem. “A lot of money is wasted by this phenomenon. The minister must take control and resolve this issue as a matter of urgency because it reflects badly on education.” Frans Ndoroma, Managing Director of Telecom, urged Namibian businesses to get more involved in support of education projects. “Many businesses still operate in isolation without getting involved in projects such as education,” Ndoroma said. Marlize Horn of the marketing department of Bank Windhoek urged local businesses to follow suit in what her bank has been doing in promoting entrepreneurial skills promotion as a subject in schools. “This project can be used as a role model to others. We invite businesses to join us in this,” she said. Percy Mchlachlan of Namdeb proposed a more centralized approach to financial assistance to education and on his company’s behalf showed particular interest in specific categories within the ETSIP programme of the ministry of Education. Portfolio manager and director of Investec, Alfred Kamupingene expressed disappointment over the fact that the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare has in the past received money from his company for a mathematics project for which they never got feedback. The chairperson of the meeting, dr Leaky Hangala, formerly of NamPower, suggested that Namibian companies start internally with efforts to assist the education sector. “We should be able to come up with a national business plan of action by the time ETSIP is being held on April 19,” Hangula said.