By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The Deputy Minister of Education, Dr Becky Ndjoze-Ojo, has called on learners to appreciate the ministry’s efforts by ensuring that they pass their examinations. Government appropriates the biggest chunk of its budget towards education every year. The tabling of the N$15.2 billion pro-poor budget for 2006/7 had at its heart – education, especially the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme (ETSIP), orphans and vulnerable children, social grants for the elderly and a provision for the health ministry to hire nurses from Kenya. Of all the priority areas, the education sector received the highest amount totalling N$388 million. According to Ndjoze-Ojo, time has come for learners to show appreciation for the efforts made by the government to ensure education accessibility in the country. The deputy minister was speaking during the official opening of a one-day conference on the plight of the girl-child in Namibia. “I urge you to redouble your efforts in order to emerge victorious at the end of the year. We as educationalists have invested a lot of money, effort, time, commitment and dedication on your education,” she said. High failure rate in schools is not the only concern. Another disturbing factor among young girls is the high infection rate of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Ndjoze-Ojo stressed the need for Namibia to work hard to address the challenges of poverty, HIV/AIDS, early pregnancies, peer pressure, and sexual harassment in schools that young girls face today. Most learners, on completing their high school studies, are uncertain about their future. The conference served as a platform for young people to learn how to choose careers. “Your future also depends on your behaviour and your commitment to get good education. I urge you to break away from the mould of limited thinking and to develop more confidence in yourselves. Demonstrate initiative” she advised, “and make the best use of your talents and creative abilities”. The conference, attended by 200 Grade 12 learners from 14 schools around Windhoek and 50 teachers, was held with the aim of equipping and encouraging young people to take the last leg of their studies seriously, to work hard and to make the best of their examinations. Forum for African Women Educationalists in Namibia (FAWENA) organized the conference. Established in 1999, the body addresses educational challenges faced by the girl-child in Namibia, especially those from the disadvantaged communities such as the poor Ovahimba and the San, as well as the orphans and vulnerable children.