WINDHOEK – The National Council for Higher Education on Tuesday evening held a public lecture on the theme: Higher Education Landscape in Namibia with particular reference to “Increasing access, while improving quality,” and “Increasing institutional diversity.”
Professor Rolf Stumpf from South Africa delivered the keynote presentation and highlighted international trends with relation to Namibia’s higher education institutes, namely the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) and the University of Namibia (Unam).
“Increasing recognition of diversified higher education systems is vital in achieving national and institutional goals,” explained Stumpf who is a council member of Unisa and an independent higher education consultant with over 40 years’ experience.
According to him Unam looks out of the norm in relation to other universities in that it is a PhD and Master’s granting institution that enrols a considerable number of students in certificate and diploma courses.
Stumpf further suggested a move towards other advanced degree studies as he believed this would bring Namibia a step closer to attain Vision 2030.
He stressed that increasing access, improving quality and increasing institutional diversity would not happen overnight.
“Rome was not built in a day, diversification is a long process, you do not do it over a cup of coffee in one evening. Diversification is no longer an option but the only way forward for Namibia,” added Stumpf.
Also at the lecture PoN rector, Professor Tjama Tjivikua said: “Much more can be achieved with the resources that we have, we must make sure to mention outputs and not only focus on the inputs.”
President of the Namibia National Students Organisation Timotheus Angala expressed the issue of cost as important. Angala openly pondered if a lack of government backing is what results in the 10 percent annual increment of tuition fees in higher educational institutes. Stumpf and Angala were in accord on this facet of higher education.
Director of the Namibia College of Open Learning Herold Murangi emphasised need for change in the nation’s mind-set.
“We have to serve the nation – there is a sense of ownership, it is not about competition, education is about serving the nation and we must remember that these are publicly funded institutions,” said Murangi.
National Planning Commission policy adviser Victor Kaulinge suggested going back to square one. “We need to go back to the drawing board, we need to strengthen primary schools and ensure that the numbers of enrolees and graduates match,” stated Kaulinge.
Unam’s Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Osmund Mwandemele emphasised the need for private sector involvement with particular reference to integrated studies. Mwandemele outlined the importance of resources in the growth of institutions of higher education.
“The Unam regional campuses have potential to grow into bigger better institutions if resources are made available,” said Mwandemele.
A member of the audience pointed out that issues affecting higher education involved children whose parents are poor being condemned.
There is a need to look at feeders of higher education institutes – a strong lower sector can feed good quality students to higher education institutes and “unless this problem is sorted we are simply addressing the apex of the problem and not its foundation”, said the contributor.
Another member of the audience suggested looking past producing graduates who need employment to producing graduates who can create jobs for themselves because unemployment is not restricted to the borders of Namibia but is a global problem.
Others emphasised the importance of primary and secondary education saying a shaky foundation will result in shakiness further up the educational ladder.
By John Travolter Matali