By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK “If we do not handle the issue of education and especially basic education correctly, we run the risk of condemning the future generation to be poor labourers, as it is the case today.” With this statement, the Governor of the Bank of Namibia Tom Alweendo added his voice to the topical debate on the education challenge facing the country. Looking at the state of education in relation to how it contributes to economic growth, the bank governor was of the opinion that education should not only be seen as a social service in society. It should rather be viewed as a means of providing “relevant and quality education” that can create a productive workforce in the future. Over the past 16 years, focus has been on improving access to primary and secondary education. However, increasing school enrolments is not the only action that should be taken by education authorities but rather the provision of education that is relevant to the ever-changing global economic environment. Alweendo said he viewed education as an important contributor to economic growth and poverty reduction. Not only does this sector “lift people out of the state of chronic poverty in which they are constantly struggling to fulfil (their) basic needs”, but an ineffective education system leads to huge gaps in opportunities as well. Lately, experts in the labour industry have been complaining about the lack of professionalism and poor work ethics amongst employees, with talks of even starting up a productivity centre. In relation to this, Alweendo explained that education is crucial in turning the prevailing situation around. “It is recognised that workers are likely to be more productive when they are educated and education affects economic growth by leading to the creation of new knowledge and innovation,” he added. Coupled with productivity is competitiveness. Currently, Namibia has the potential to position itself competitively on the global economy through the economies of scale and in what Alweendo calls “high quality and practical education”. Figures show that Namibia has a population of 1.8 million with a 2,6 percent growth rate; a life expectancy of 56 years; a literacy rate of 56 percent; economic growth rate at about 3 percent; per capita income of US$1 750 and the biggest employer is agriculture at 60 percent. With this trend, improvement is mainly attainable through an improved education system that seeks to source out specialised skills that have a competitive edge in the global arena. “We can only hope to survive as a nation if we equip ourselves with skills that will enable us to compete effectively with all the other nations. This obviously requires that we change the way we look at education,” he added. The trick is therefore for all educated Namibians to apply their acquired knowledge and skills in the job market, something that is not happening today. Alweendo is of the opinion that in developing countries, Africans are reluctant to show off their skills. “We would normally want to think that we are less experienced to be experts in certain subject matters (however) expertise comes with practice and if we fail to practice what we learned we will never become experts in anything,” he stressed. While education is the key to success, the governor noted that it should not be seen as a “silver bullet that can cure all economic evils”. Rather the wider policy and investment environment is equally critical for sustainable economic growth. In conclusion, the governor noted that the transformation of the education system is a long-term process that needs the involvement of all Namibians. He made these remarks at the launch of the Poly-technic’s Masters in International Business program- me held in the capital last week.
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