By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK President Hifikepunye Pohamba says the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme (ETSIP) is grounded in the collective desire of the Namibian people to ensure that the country’s children have access to quality education to prepare them to become productive citizens. The Head of State expressed this view when he officially opened a pledging conference yesterday morning in the capital. “Education is the foundation upon which we can build a prosperous society, a society where our people can achieve their fullest potential and contribute to the realisation of our development objectives. We are therefore proud that Namibia has earned herself a distinction as one of the few countries in the world that allocate the largest portion of the national budget to the education sector per capita,” Pohamba said. Despite the substantial investment in terms of financial resources there remains substantial shortcomings that require urgent attention. “This is because the inputs we have made have not produced the desired outputs. It is therefore important to ask the question why this state of affairs exists in order to find appropriate answers and apply appropriate measure to remedy the situation,” the President said. In the quest for answers a Presidential Commission on Education, Culture and Training was established and a study on Human Development and Knowledge Management for Economic growth was ordered. “It is against this background and in the context of our ongoing efforts to improve our education system that ETSIP must be viewed and understood. The provision of quality education, relevant to the needs of our country, is a critical element in our efforts to transform our society and develop our country socially and economically. It is not enough to give our people basic literacy and numeracy. We must also endeavour to equip them with skills, capacities and competencies through education and vocational skills training,” the President advised. We feel it is important to ensure that our education system is well-integrated and geared to produce academically proficient learners and students at every stage from primary through to secondary and tertiary education. “Our aim is to train and educate competent and competitive professionals who can fully operate in the highly competitive modern economy. However, our education system can only produce desired results if we ensure that we invest the available resources in programmes and fields of study that are relevant in addressing our socio-economic development challenges,” he said. Pohamba further intimated that tertiary institutions have a duty and responsibility to educate, train and empower more Namibians with relevant knowledge and skills. “In order to achieve this noble objective our teachers at primary and secondary school levels should be given the necessary tools and resources to ensure that our learners have the capacity to undertake tertiary education with confidence after they complete their high school education. The outcomes of the envisaged reform will have fundamental impacts on our society with respect to addressing issues of socio-economic development and narrowing the gap created by income disparities and skewed distribution of wealth,” the President asserted. He also urged that a strong emphasis be put on empowering the previously disadvantaged citizens. “I wish to emphasise that a correct and strong education system that is responsive to the development needs of our country will enable us to achieve our goals and objectives. I believe that our tertiary institutions should serve as reservoirs of knowledge and capacity in the implementation of programmes such as ETSIP. These institutions have a duty to introduce relevant courses and study programmes to address the identified needs. These are the challenges our country must face and find solutions to,” he said.