By Anna Shilongo
Thousands of students from the University of Namibia graduated in various areas of specialization over the weekend. Parents and friends of graduates filled to capacity the Safari Hotel Conference Centre to witness the graduation ceremony.
The students were conferred with bachelor and masters degrees, doctorates, national diplomas, higher certificates and national certificates.
Parents and friends of graduates could not hide their joy when students started receiving their qualifications as the jovial mood prevailed.
Ululation was the music of the day, as parents and friends used their traditional ways of appreciation to congratulate their beloved sons and daughters, husbands, wives as well as friends for their achievements.
Chancellor of the University of Namibia (Unam) Dr Sam Nujoma in his speech congratulated the graduates, urging them to go out in the world and use their ability to solve problems in the real world.
“As we cerebrate here today, we should not forget many of our young people that cannot enter into the university because of lack of places and financial resources,” said Nujoma.
Despite the remarkable expansion of enrolment at the university, the Chancellor believes that the proportion of young people entering institutions of higher learning is still too inadequate to meet the demands of a knowledge-based economy.
However, each year, the number of graduates is increasing steadily at the University of Namibia.
This year there were 74 graduates from the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 265 graduates from the Faculty of Economics and Management Sciences, 218 graduates from the Faculty of Education, 165 graduates from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Science, 72 from the Faculty of Law, 169 graduates from the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, and 51 graduates were from the Faculty of Science.
The number of female graduates has also increased over the years in some of the very key fields of study.
A female in the Faculty of Science, Lupanga, scooped this year’s merit award. This year only two students attained Doctorates in Philosophy (PhD) – in Public Administration and in Adult Education. The two students were Niikondo Andrew and Likando Gilbert.
Of the 48 graduates who received a Bachelor of Science this year, half of them are females. And out of the 68 graduates that received Bachelor of Accountancy degrees, 45 of them are females.
The number of international students from southern Africa and beyond has also seen an increase each year. This year alone the university enrolled students from 27 countries world wide totalling 1 038, which includes 65 students from Angola, 146 from Botswana, 14 from South Africa, six from Swaziland, 399 from Zambia and 225 students from Zimbabwe.
The university also enrolled students from Austria, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Congo, DRC, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania and Uganda.
It seems the university is now being recognized as a world-class centre for scholarship. For three consecutive years the University of Namibia has been ranked among the top 25 universities in Africa.
Moreover, the increase in students has also brought about new challenges for the university. Challenges such as the overcrowding of classes.
Plans are under way to refurbish the university’s lecture halls and laboratories as well as to expand classrooms to cope with the increased demand for quality education.
The university also intends to buy new laboratory equipment such as microscopes and others for science-based programmes. All these changes are aimed at enhancing the quality of teaching and learning at the university.
Nujoma singled out the lack of medical doctors, dentists and pharmacists as serious challenges in the provision of health care in the country especially in rural areas.
“I am happy to learn that plans by the university to build a national school of medicine have reached an advanced stage, and as a result the Ministry of Health has already designed the Windhoek Central Hospital as the university’s teaching hospital,” he said.
The ministry has also availed a piece of land between the Katutura and Central hospitals for the construction of additional infrastructure for the medical school.
With the view to address the lack of engineers and other technical personnel in the county, plans are under way to establish engineering programmes at the institution.
“It is therefore gratifying to note that the university will soon have its own Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology whose construction started already on 1st April at Ongwediva,” said the chancellor.
He singled out one of the factors hindering access to the university as poor results at secondary school level.
“I am happy that the university has taken steps and successfully introduced the foundation programme, which prepares secondary school leavers in science, mathematics and English, before they enter the university,” he stressed.
Another challenge the Chancellor noted was the overcrowding in classrooms and laboratories, which puts a lot of pressure on teaching and learning aids.
“I am happy to note that through the National planning Commission and the ministry of education, our government has taken a concrete decision to address this backlog.
“In order to reach more and more people that desire to learn, the university should encourage distance education and self-learning techniques that utilize information and communication technologies such as e-learning. By so doing, we will help alleviate the strain on the already over-stretched boarding and classroom facilities,” said Nujoma.
Nujoma stressed that the country is faced with numerous challenges, and for the university to be relevant to the needs of its people, it is essential to develop the skills to acquire new knowledge and the capacity to use knowledge as a resource in addressing social challenges.
He believes this will only happen if the university continues to adjust its curricula and infuse locally relevant materials and perspectives.
Another area of concern the Chancellor pointed out is the university library.
“We cannot afford to work in isolation. We must always strive in synergy with others, and they too must work in synergy with us. We should always be open to institutional collaboration and networking,” stressed Nujoma.
Throughout Africa, he said, limited economic growth, and amidst many competing national priorities, makes it very difficult for national governments to give more funds to institutions of higher learning.
Therefore the students are encouraged to seek other sources of funding and donor support.
“The university should also set up a strategic blueprint to survive and cope with cuts in government subventions. Unfortunately, this is a reality we have to live with.”
As a result, he urged the university to increase income-generating
“However, we should be careful that the core business of the university is not overtaken by other activities of raising extra income,” he said.
In conclusion, he said the university should adjust to suit the changing times, or else it will become irrelevant and face extinction.
“Once again I congratulate all our graduates. Go into the world and become good ambassadors of the University of Namibia. Be a shining spark in your communities. And above all, be prepared to serve our country with commitment and dedication,” the Chancellor concluded.