By Chrispin Inambao KATIMA MULILO In the wake of a rapidly declining passing rate among secondary school students in Caprivi, the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, late last week urged students in the region to pull up their socks. Since the country’s independence some sixteen years ago, there has been a significant increase in the failure rate particularly among grades 10 and 12 students in the region that previously was rated among the top five in terms of performance and pass rate. Kamwi said the issue of medical positions, particularly those of doctors being dominated by a legion of foreign experts, could only be addressed if local students took a keen interest in science-related subjects crucial for university admissions. And once these students took science-related subjects, he felt, they would be able to rectify the deficit that exists for local doctors, pharmacists and laboratory technicians. He said Vision 2030 would only be achieved if there were sufficient resources, more especially human resources to ensure the effective and efficient utilisation of resources. “The issue of human resource development in the health sector brings me to the issue of education in our country and the Caprivi Region in particular,” he told students, teachers and Lovemore Lupalezwi, the newly appointed Regional Education Director. “A better educated population is able to understand their socio-political and legal rights and ultimately to hold their government to account, thus making education important to the broader ideals of democracy and governance,” he told the gathering. With regard to Vision 2030, he said its goal is to produce a highly educated and well-trained labour force that will help make Namibia an industrialised country while quality education is needed so that Namibians can become more innovative and be able to compete globally with their peers. He said despite current efforts aimed at training more health professionals, there is still a deficit in human resource requirements especially for doctors, pharmacists, and clinical engineers, the reason being a lack of high school graduates with science subjects to meet entry requirements to study medicine and other fields. Kamwi said the other reason why there is a skills deficiency is because most high school graduates especially from rural areas lack information on academic institutions that offer medical/health related training as well as their contact addresses. The absence of career guidance at schools resulting in the majority of high school graduates not to take science subjects that are required for medical and health studies was also singled out as another factor contributing to a lack of skilled labour. He further said the lack of patriotism among the majority of qualified Namibian health professionals who do not want to serve the nation in the public sector but who “continue migrating into the private health sector” is another factor. Young local health professionals are unwilling to work in rural areas resulting in crucial shortages in rural areas and a high concentration in urban areas. He explained that during 2005, there were merely 230 medical doctors employed by the Ministry of Health and Social Services with only 88 (38 percent) of them being Namibians while 142 (62 percent) were non-Namibians. From a workforce of 19 pharmacists employed during that period, only eight were Namibians. In 2005, there were 35 vacant positions for medical doctors, 26 for pharmacists, 70 for social workers and 975 for enrolled nurses. The gathering was informed that Government has embarked on a vigorous career marketing to ensure that prospective health workers get the correct information on health related training programmes and to address the deficit. The ministry is negotiating with foreign academic institutions to accept Namibian students into their health related programmes in countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya with student financial assistance available at the Ministry of Education. Kamwi, who recently received his doctorate degree, appealed to educationalists in that region to encourage learners to take science subjects that he said are key to opening up the young generation’s future into the world of science and technology.
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