By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Classrooms, student bursaries and the provision of more vocational training institutions have been identified as the major challenges to be resolved in order to improve the country’s education system. Minister of Education Nangolo Mbumba yesterday spoke to New Era on various issues regarding the country’s education system, until recently under heavy criticism from various quarters. “Presently, my senior staff are busy drawing up a pragmatic plan to implement the government’s ETSIP programme’s activities for the first year in the three five-year implementation phase thereof over the next 15 years. I am very optimistic that we will reach our targets before the next budget,” Mbumba said. Shortly after the ETSIP pledging conference, Mbumba travelled to Brussels to meet with other ministers of education from Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific countries. “It was a very fruitful interaction to discuss mutual educational problems in our respective countries. We took serious decisions with regard to financial and technical support to improve education in our respective countries in line with quality education for all. We are now poised to implement the Brussels declaration’s educational recommendations,” he said of the 10-day meeting in Belgium. Mbumba also elaborated on some important educational contacts he had made with the Belgium ministry of education. “I am happy to say that the present Speaker of the Belgium parliament, a former minister of education in Belgium, officially pledged more cooperation between my ministry and that of his country with regard to research in food stuffs such as the Hoodia plant and medicine. We have agreed that more Namibian medical doctors should visit Belgium for specialized training in their specific fields,” Mbumba said. The University of Ghent is also more than willing to accept research students from the University of Namibia. “ETSIP brought in an amount of N$357 million plus our government’s N$100 million, enough to try and resolve the most pressing shortcomings in our education system. That is what my senior staff are now focusing on so that we do not have the problems with classrooms at the beginning of next year. We are also confident that more students, not only 10 or so, from the institutions of higher learning will be issued sufficient bursaries for further studies abroad,” said Mbumba, who assured the public that the ETSIP donations will be used in a transparent manner and for their purpose. According to Mbumba, early childhood education will also be a priority for his ministry in the first year. “We will be training people to properly tackle this important subsection of education on a continuous basis. We have also found that there are too few vocational training centres in the country and that the levels of teaching in such institutions are too narrow to make a marked difference in quality education. In this regard managements of all educational institutions need to upgrade their approaches on all levels. This is what is expected of them and we will see to it that it happens,” Mbumba promised. The minister wished all learners, teachers, parents and teachers’ unions well for the start of the mid-year school term. “It is imperative that everyone involved in the learning process resume their responsibilities with new vigour and enthusiasm, especially in the higher grades where expectations for better results by everyone are high. We all have to be better organized and create a conducive learning environment to our learners for them to achieve what we expect them to achieve – better results,” he said expectantly.
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