Forum Looks to the Future

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By Francis Tsawayo WINDHOEK The Forum For the Future (FFF) a non-governmental organisation recently held it second conference at Oniipa near Ondangwa with the theme “Preparing Ourselves For The Future”. The meeting lasted from June 29 to July 01. The conference focused on three issues, namely education, globalisation and the link between HIV/Aids and Democratic Governance Structures. Presenting the topics for discussion were Helao Shityuwete of the PEACE Centre (Peoples Education, Assistance and Counselling for Empowerment), Herbert Jauch from the Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRi), Samson Ndeikwila the coordinator of FFF and outspoken local academic Dr Joseph Diescho, famed for his eloquence and motivational speeches. Diescho’s main task was to highlight the main features of each paper and group reports that were presented at the gathering. Moderating the event was Dr Veikko Munyika, Secretary General of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia. About 120 participants from different parts of the country trickled in, with 75 percent coming from the northern regions of Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana and Oshikoto. Participants were comprised of almost 50 percent women, majority of the delegates being grassroots people and the rest being teachers, nurses, pastors, business people and students from leading institutions around Ondangwa. Presenting a paper on the topic “Towards a relevant and quality education” was Helao Shityuwete, leading to a discussion on education and training that placed great emphasis on early childhood development, as each stage in education feeds into the next. Namibians were urged to provide good quality education from pre-primary, primary and secondary schooling up to tertiary institutions. A clear distinction was made that “education refers to imparting knowledge to another person, while training refers to equipping another person with skills. An uneducated person can undergo training to acquire skills”. Observations were also made regarding the 2006-2007 national budget that, though N$3 192 billion of the budget is allocated to education, N$3 053 billion goes to current expenditures. In order for Namibia to move forward in this highly competitive world, this situation in the Ministry of Education should be reversed as a matter of urgency so that the bigger part of this allocation is given to capital costs. The participants also called for proper advanced planning in this ministry to avoid the annual shortages of classrooms at grades one, six and eleven as well as the bottlenecks at tertiary institutions. The discussion on globalization identified a multiplicity of inter-connections between states and societies that have emerged as a result of the changes that occurred over the last 20-30 years. The new world order is now characterized by fast movements of capital across borders, establishment of a set of global economic rules and the emergence of powerful Transnational Corporations (TNCs). Competition and international competitiveness have now become permanent features of the free market economy of the global capitalist system, largely dominated by the interests of the TNCs. Such interests have been placed above social equity and the well being of the ordinary people. Faced with the problems of unemployment and ever increasing poverty, governments are forced to compete with each other to make their countries more attractive to foreign investors by offering increasing concessions, said presenter on TNCs Herbert Jauch. Namibians find themselves affected directly by globalization as TNCs. Export Processing Zones (EPZ) to control the key economic sectors (mining, fishing and retail) were introduced, offering special incentives to foreign investors at the expense of the workers. The privatization programme was also introduced by commercializing state-owned enterprises (Telecom, Nampower, Namwater, TransNamib, Namibia Wildlife Resorts, etc.). Casualization of labour is commonplace and the workers increasingly become part-time workers, seasonal workers and sub-contracted workers, the conference revealed. The discussion on “the link between HIV/AIDS and democratic governance structures” resulted on agreement that democratic governments with open societies have effectively brought the spread of HIV/AIDS under control in their countries. These governments do place people in charge of what they know best. There is a culture of dialogue among the ordinary citizens themselves and between the citizens and their leaders. However, the epidemic has ravaged and continues to ravage populations in countries that are under the influence of the politics of mistrust, suspicion and exclusion among the citizens. In these countries the citizens do not hold discussions among themselves or with their leaders. Governments put people in the positions for which they are not qualified, leading to poor service delivery in the public institutions. According to the Namibia Labour Force Survey of 2004 over 223 000 (36.7%.) Namibians are unemployed; today fewer Namibians are economically active than in 2000, down from 54% to 49.9%; the majority of Namibians earn between N$1 000 and N$5 000 per month and more than 56.4% of males are employed, while only 40.7% of females are employed, they quoted. The figures indicate that, under such levels of poverty, Namibia is easy prey to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. As long as suspicion, mistrust and exclusion continues to characterize interactions among the citizens and there is no open dialogue among them and between them and those in leadership, the HIV/AIDS prevalence rates will continue to rise and life expectancy will continue to decline.