By Anna Ingwafa
The Government has adopted the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme (ETSIP) that aims at addressing weaknesses and other structural problems in the education sector, doing it in a system-wide manner looking at all phases, from early childhood development programmes to tertiary education.
So said President Hifikepunye Pohamba at the University of Namibia Northern Campus and Ogongo Agricultural College graduation ceremony on Thursday, at the Ongwediva Trade Fair.
President Pohamba said the components of ETSIP should not be viewed in isolation because they are components of a unified system. Components should also be seen as part of a system-wide process of change and re-engineering, with a bearing on national development programes (NDPs) and Vision 2030.
“I believe that a better understanding of this process of change and re-engineering should be informed by the philosophy that the purpose of education is to discover and develop the individual’s innate potential, regardless of his or her background or of his or her parents’ socio-economic status or position. This is the basis of our conviction to expand equity, access and quality of education in all phases from early childhood development to tertiary institutions,” the President said.
The Head of State noted that education is the medium for social and economic development of any country and the citizens must be provided with the right education, harnessing its transformative power in the social and economic development process, and at the same time drawing lessons form history.
After independence, the education system was transformed from being ethnic-based and fragmented into a unified system, said President Pohamba.
“This has gone hand in hand with the expansion of infrastructure such as the building of new school hostels, libraries, laboratories, teachers’ houses, the rehabilitation of dilapidated school buildings and the provision of more text books, desks and other materials.
“In this context, we see ETSIP as a tool to translate and harness the power of the education sector for the achievement of our strategic national development goals and to transform our society into a knowledge-based economy.”
The first phase of the ETSIP initiative covers the period from 2006 to 2011 and it aims to improve the quality and effectiveness of general education; systematize knowledge and innovation; improve effectiveness and relevance of the tertiary education system; and strengthen the policy and legal framework for access to lifelong learning.
President Pohamba pointed out that the objective of ETSIP requires concerted efforts from all stakeholders in education, including the private sector, public sector NGOs, communities and individuals.
“In doing so, we should not lose sight of the fact that ETSIP is a system-wide initiative covering all phases of our public education system.”
The Head of State reflected on each phase and its importance to the education system.
On early childhood and pre-primary education, the President said early childhood development and pre-education is vital because it lays a foundation in a child’s education.
“It has a direct bearing on performance in basic education programmes and the acquisition of basic literacy and numeracy skills. It is for this reason that ETSIP seeks to integrate early childhood development programmes, especially the pre-primary phase into the formal public education system.
“This is being done with special focus on needy communities such as the San, the Ovahimba and the rural and peri-urban communities, where these services hardly exist.”
He urged to the nation to promote and re-emphasise the importance of early childhood care and education as the bedrock of the education system and it must be the foundation of improving the quality of education and expanding access for all Namibian children to enjoy equitable opportunities.
On general education that refers to stages from Grade 1 to Grade 12, President Pohamba said the Government has recognized the need for improvement. He pointed out that general education is a crucial phase of any education system because it is where young people start to make important career choices and develop skills that will guide them in their adult lives.
He mentioned the need for improvement in the teaching of subjects such as English, mathematics and Science at high school so that youth can perform well when they enter tertiary institutions.
On the issue of Grade 10 failures, the Head of State said that an amount of N$320 million has been allocated for it this year.
“The funds are being used to provide for more contact hours between teachers and learners as well as to support the Namibia College of Open learning (Namcol) and vocational training centres, where those learners are enrolled. I am informed that 11 000 or so students needed to repeat Grade 10 and about 5 000 have entered the formal education system, while the rest have joined Namcol or vocational training centres.”
This year, an amount of more than N$134 million has been allocated to cater for ETSIP activities in the vocational training phase.
Moreover, vocational education and training play an important role in all countries in the world because it occupies a unique position in the provision of skills which are critical to the economy, he said. Plans are under way to establish a vocational training centre in Keetmanshoop in addition to the five existing ones and a number of community skills development centers in different parts of the country.
The Head of State mentioned that tertiary education and training is one of the important indicators of human resources development and capacity building worldwide.
“We all know that tertiary education provides skills which the modern technology-driven labour market demands. It provides essential training for teachers, doctors, nurses, civil servants, engineers, entrepreneurs, scientists, and a myriad of other professionals.
“As a matter of necessity, our institutions of higher learning, like the University of Namibia, the Polytechnic of Namibia, the colleges of education and the colleges of agriculture must spearhead the development of human resource capacities for different sectors of our economy.
“The allocation of more than N$731 million to this sector during this financial year is a clear indication of our commitment to strengthen tertiary education.”
Three hundred and fifty two graduates were conferred bachelor’s degrees, diplomas and certificates in various specializations.