By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Namibia has secured a loan from the World Bank to finance the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme (ETSIP). The World Bank Board of Directors on Thursday approved an International Bank for Reconstruction and Development Loan (IBRDL) of US$7.5 million (approximately N$51.7 million) for the country to increase the supply of middle to high level skills required to meet current labour market demands. This, said the bank in a statement, would lay the foundation for a sustainable supply of skills required for future equitable growth and to facilitate Namibia’s transition to a knowledge-based economy. The programme has nine sub-programmes which look at the whole education system, with improving the quality of the whole sector as one of the main means through which Namibia would have more skilled people, said Undersecretary for Education Justin Ellis yesterday. The first development policy loan specifically supports the first implementation phase of ETSIP, a five-year programme which is estimated to cost Namibia US$375 (approximately N$2.5 billion). The total implementation of ETSIP, seen as the gateway to enabling Namibia to reach its policy framework for long-term national development (Vision 2030) is N$11,1 billion. Namibia spends 8.6 percent of GDP and 27 percent of its recurrent budget on education and training, yet the products thereof do not match the investment therein. The programme will be implemented through five three-year programmes, of which the first covers the period 2006 to 2011. The Development Policy Loan is an instrument that provides direct budgetary support and disburses funds against policy and institutional reforms already achieved by the government. It constitutes about 14 percent of the funds required for the first year of ETSIP, with the rest to be financed by the government and national and international development partners. The first phase focuses on a number of critical priorities that would immediately contribute to the attainment of the broader sector objectives and development goals aimed at accelerated economic growth and the equitable social development of Vision 2030. The priorities include the provision of good quality skilled labour, the establishment of a knowledge and innovation system, quality improvement of general education and creating greater opportunities for lifelong learning. To realise the four priorities, the education sector will carry out activities which include: early childhood development and pre-primary education, general education, vocational education and training, tertiary education and training, knowledge and innovation, culture and lifelong learning, and information and communication technology in education and HIV/AIDS. The loan is the first of two single tranche sector DPL of N$51.7 million each and it happens to be the first IBRD lending operation for Namibia. The development loan coincides with the board’s discussion of the Namibian Interim Strategic Note, after the government signalled an interest in getting support from the bank for its development agenda. The first-ever strategic note sets out a framework for strengthening the bank group’s engagement with Namibia over the next two years, said the statement, adding that at the end of the period the bank and the government will discuss the possibility of preparing a full Country Partnership Strategy.