Arts Play an Important Role in Nation-Building

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Presently there is no government system in place in the regions for the identification, development and exposure of artistic talent besides the National Art Extension Programme of the College of the Arts. So said the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, Dr Peingindjabi Shipoh, when he officially opened a five-day workshop on Monday for part-time lecturers of the NAEP. Some forty lecturers from all regions are attending the workshop which ends today at the Katutura Community Arts Centre (KACA). “The absence of such a system prevents the arts from being developed into a viable industry and an income-generating force in Namibia, something detrimental to the Namibian economy in the long run,” Shipoh said. In an overview, he admitted that the National Arts Extension Programme has been and is a difficult one to administer. “It has given many implementation problems over the years, and yet it can be regarded as the most visionary programme of the directorate, addressing the quest for accessibile, equitable and quality arts education in an innovative way. It is also the NAEP that has allowed for the complete transformation of the College of the Arts from a Windhoek-based arts hobby centre to an institution with wide, national reach. The programme therefore deserves a better and higher status than is currently the case,” the Permanent Secretary intimated. The College of the Arts presently accommodates more than 4ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 enrolled students. “Many of the people serving in the NAEP have done so for a considerable period of time, and the regular renewal of annual contracts over the years has created the expectation of ongoing employment. My ministry and the College of the Arts recognize the contribution they have made over the years. The ministry will therefore continue requesting for the farming-out of services until such time as full employment will be approved on the establishment of the Directorate of Arts,” he promised. The absence of ever being appointed on a full-time basis on the programme has been a bone of contention among the 69 part-time lecturers for many years, whereas countries such as Zimbabwe have appointed artists on a full-time basis for many years. “We are using Namibian artists, who are not necessarily employed elsewhere. Therefore, artists were given first preference. I should point out that the NAEP was designed because of the lack of implementation of arts in the schools. Without you the College of the Arts cannot decentralize its programme and the country remains at risk of never realizing the creative potential of its people,” Shipoh concluded. During a session of the workshop on Tuesday, the part-time lecturers aired and voiced a number of grievances within the NAEP such as late payment of monthly salaries, which remains one of the biggest problems. “We are really treated very badly by the Ministry of Culture’s personnel office. We don’t receive our payments on time, resulting in late payments of our personal accounts. It is obvious that this office cannot resolve such basic issues that concern our families,” the national chairman of the Oruuano Artists Union and part-time music lecturer, Dominique Lunenge, told a representative of the personnel office, Willem Kazekondjo, who addressed the lecturers on their complaints.