Unam Has Duty to Educate Youth on Civic Matters

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A recently published Institute of Public Policy Re search report of Media Usage and Political Knowledge in Namibia among Unam students makes some shocking revelations about the mindset of the future leaders of the country. The study surveyed close to 30 percent of the full-time student population of the highest institution of learning in the country. The one third that was interviewed generally lack interest in political, civic and economic issues presented by the media. The study found that they prefer information on social issues and entertainment. Come on, what’s wrong with our institution of higher learning? The majority of students at Unam are studying social sciences and one would expect that they should take a keen interest in the very issues they appear not to show interest in. Perhaps, lecturers should design their curricula in such a way that students are forced to read newspapers and in particular issues related to their social science studies. Their assignments should be based on current affairs issues, namely the Namibian economy, Vision 2030, the Second National Development Plan, parliamentary debates, national policies, etc. What we see is a student populace that is just passive consumers of prescribed texts. We cannot only blame students for their apathy and lack of interest in national issues. Lecturers are equally to blame, as they should make an effort that the product that comes out of the university is ready to take on national responsibilities. This newspaper, and we are sure other publications and media houses, experience problems with Unam academics when we seek expert comment on issues of national nature. The usual answer is: “I’ve not read about it,” except for one or two who are normally on the ball. This gives one the impression that the academics are afraid to air their opinions freely on issues affecting the nation. They are mere job seekers, instead of opinion makers and shapers of national policy. These are the people in whose hands we have left the future of our next leaders. So, what can one expect apart from general apathy on national issues? It would be futile to talk of nation building and economic development if the future of this country is in the hands of a socialite graduate and lecturers, who by all means would want to secure their jobs above all else. The medium through which most of those interviewed get their information is television. This shows that there is a lack of reading culture among the future leaders of this country – how pathetic. They are the ones who are supposed to shape, draft and implement national policies. Yet, “existing knowledge about political and civic matters is low overall”, the study suggests. The university is supposed to spearhead national debates on policy and other issues of paramount importance to the development of this country. But, if no such debate takes place or is encouraged at the institution, surely Namibia is doomed. Information on political and civic matters is very important in a democratic society, as voters who are informed can make informed choices. The youth is the bulk of the voting populace and if they are not interested in civic issues and do not make an effort to become knowledgeable about them, what sort of choices will they make at the voting booth? If this trend persists, we will most definitely see declining numbers of people voting. The study should be a wake-up call for those managing Unam to make our future leaders more interested in civic issues.