‘Namibian’ Lecturer: Unam Does Not Care

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As a young Namibian lecturer, I would like to comment on the “Graduates fail market test” that appeared in Wednesday’s edition of The Namibian newspaper. Our institutions of higher learning contribute a lot to the poor quality of the graduates it churns out who cannot apply the theoretical knowledge they gain in the classroom to real life situations. The University of Namibia does not really care about the quality of its products i.e. its graduates, by employing substandard lecturers through haphazard localization of teaching posts. University management has oftentimes replaced qualified and experienced foreign lecturers with half-baked or inexperienced local ones so long as they have a Masters degree in whatever field. I am a young Namibian lecturer at one of the two institutions above. I have a Masters degree and am on my way to finalising a PhD at a South African University. After graduating from Unam, I was employed as a Staff Development Fellow for a year before going abroad for my Masters degree. When I came back, I was thrust straight into a classroom of expectant students. Even though I was equipped with a Masters from a prestigious university, I was not ready to teach all the courses assigned to me. I am not saying that we should not localize or be self-sufficient but at what cost? This will haunt us later because the fruits of the policies of today will only be realized in ten to twenty years from now. There is no university in the world that has indigenous lecturers only. Why can’t we learn from America which poaches the brightest brains from around the world at no cost to them by encouraging fine brains abroad in relocating to America. Visit any American university and count the numbers of foreign lectures. But at the same time we should not be a dumping ground for substandard foreigners who may even be criminal elements. It seems Unam is too much in a hurry to localize, whether rational or not. It has a lot of experienced foreign lecturers on very flimsy grounds. I will give a few examples. The Biology Department lost Dr Mbewe and Prof Ogundana because of misdemeanours which had nothing to do with Unam. After kangaroo disciplinary courts, their contracts were terminated at short notice. The Mathematics Department lost Mr Ligona. The Computer Science Department has only two qualified lecturers, the rest are tutors (with BSc’s only) who are forced to teach fellow BSc aspirants. I am reliably informed that the Faculty of Agriculture replaced Prof Abate, Dr Undi and Dr Msiska with inexperienced locals with no proper hand-overs. As a human being, I was appalled to see some Unam staff celebrating when the issue of stolen computers was unveiled because bigwigs of foreign origin were involved. Most of our leaders spent long times in exile. Some got educated there and yet it seems we do not care about this anymore. Unam does not have a deliberate policy of identifying deserving and promising students to be staff development fellows to understudy the foreign lecturers the way other universities in the world do. Right now, it freezes a post once a foreign lecturer’s contract comes to an end, at the end of two terms. There is no security of tenure among foreigners. It is common knowledge that once you appear before a disciplinary hearing, your contract will not be renewed. Some qualified foreigners use Namibia as launching pad for careers in South Africa or Botswana once they hear that there is no security of tenure here. An example is given of Zambian nurses who came with us from exile. They were given two-year contracts renewed once and then sent packing. Now we are asking Kenya for help! Please let us have a clear policy of localization other than just looking at how many black people we have in various companies and organizations. Fellow countrymen, let us look at this issue with sober minds. I do realize that this issue cannot be fully addressed in a short letter like this aimed for publication. But I do hope I have set the ball rolling on discussions on the various forums, radio, Talk of the Nation on TV or newspapers. It’s good to be Namibian. Concerned Namibian