By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK A monumental sigh of relief and applause reverberated yesterday throughout a packed hall at a local hotel with the announcement of a massive N$357,2 million in donations for the government’s plan of action to improve the education system in the country. A part of the local business fraternity contributed about N$4,5 million towards the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme (ETSIP). The Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Libertina Amathila, at the end of the pledging two-day conference, officially announced the amount collected. “The time has come to put ETSIP into practice and turn our plans, thus far on paper, into actions. The time has indeed come to move ETSIP from the desks of the specialists who designed it, to the hands of the specialists who will operationalise it; moving it from head offices to the children of Namibia, the very people whose lives it is meant to improve,” Amathila said. “We have reached our goal for extra funding to implement the programme systematically over the next three years,” said an obviously relieved and excited Minister of Education, Nangolo Mbumba in a short press interlude after the announcement. According to Mbumba, the amount of money received from the business sector, the United Nations and a number of foreign governments is indicative of the understanding for the country and its people. “The ministry’s top officials and myself have worked hard for the past three years. The donor community didn’t hesitate to make their financial contribution, proving to us that they are true friends of this nation. We are very thankful for the near target of N$360 million for the first step of the implementation phase during the first year and the next three years,” said a delighted Mbumba. President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Prime Minister Nahas Angula and a number of other big guns in the government were directly involved in this successful national fundraising effort. The government of the United States contributed N$97 million, making it the largest single donor. “We support the Namibian government’s plan and we support the phased approach in implementing it; we support the identification of Critical Sector Priorities for the first phase, and we agree with the priorities themselves. Now the challenge will be prioritizing the priorities,” said Gary Newton, UNSAID/Namibia Mission Director, on behalf of the American government. Newton suggested that the following be incorporated into ETSIP for discussion: fully funded staff be appointed in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic in teaching children to protect themselves against HIV; that suitable policies and programmes be implemented to help orphans and vulnerable children at school level; a full staffed workplace prevention, care and treatment programme for the Ministry of Education’s 20 000 employees because the success of ETSIP relies upon reducing the impact of AIDS on the education workforce and to strengthen the partnership between the Ministry of Education and the private sector. “With the funding now available we dare not slow down in implementing ETSIP because we are now in the spotlight of the nation and the world to do so. A pragmatic phase-approach of implementation may ensure more funding to the project, which is of cardinal interest to the whole nation,” said Mbumba. “Strictly speaking the United Nations may not be seen as a donor. In fact just like the government the UN gets its resources from donor countries. As part of an agreement with the Namibian government a total of N$75 million to be used in ETSIP for early childhood development and pre-primary education,” said the UN’s Simon Nhongo in announcing the amount. The following countries also contributed towards the ETSIP programme: Sweden (N$50 million), Finland (N$1 million), Luxembourg (N$34 million), Spain (N$22,5 million) and The Netherlands (N$55 million).
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