Namibia had the highest public education expenditure to total government spending ratio among 115 countries, and seventh highest education expenditure to gross domestic ratio.
This was revealed by UNICEF country representative Micaela Marques de Sousa at the annual review of the Education, Arts and Culture sector 2016/17 and validation of the annual plan 2017/18 meeting held last week.
De Sousa said this is a welcome statistic from the draft public expenditure review of the basic education sector.
Namibia spends generally more on teacher salaries than other countries in southern Africa and the per capita spending on education, which she applauded,
is very good in comparison with other countries.
Out of the N$11.97 billion overall total budget of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, a whopping N$10 billion has been allocated to staff related expenditure.
These include remuneration, the Government Institutions Pension Fund and other conditions of service.
The N$10 billion translates to 85 percent of the total budget, while the 5 percent of about N$585 million is meant for infrastructure development.
The Minister of Education, Arts and Culture Katrina Hanse-Himarwa announced the allocation during her budget motivation statement in the National Assembly last Wednesday.
She noted the remaining 10 percent, which is approximately N$1.53 billion, goes to non-personnel and infrastructure related expenditure in the 2016/17 financial year.
She said the ministry has recorded a total teaching staff of 27 886, which comprises 18 140 and 9 746 female and male teaching staff, respectively, deployed in 1 796 schools countrywide.
During the 2016/17 financial year, the ministry was allocated a total budget of N$12.32 billion compared to the N$11.97 billion allocated this financial year (2017/18).
“We applaud the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture under the leadership of my sister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa who fought wholeheartedly to balance the right to education with the fiscal realities of a growing basic education sector, through the 2017 budget vote,” De Sousa said.
According to her, it is a fact that education services are in high demand worldwide, and the reality that households everywhere undertake out-of-pocket expenditure on such services shows that no government meets this demand for education in full.
She maintained that in practice government spending on education is closely linked to the levels of economic development, saying the more developed a country, the more its government is likely to spend on education.
Additionally, De Sousa said, while the level of household expenditure on education services is a reminder of the extent of the unmet demand, the volume of resources made available by the Namibian government for the provision of education is probably close to the maximum that an upper middle-income country can afford.
“We therefore are in agreement that expenditure on education is a vital investment for every country. But often it is not how much we spend, but how well we spend it,” she emphasized.
Therefore, she said, in Namibia the existence of a strong positive relationship between GDP per capita and public education spending per capita is evident.
Hence, she said, the country has an “adequate” level of government spending on education as one that is reasonable in the context of the country’s level of economic development, as opposed to one that fully satisfies the demand for education services.
In a nutshell, she said, Namibia needs effective expenditure and improved financial allocations to improve equity-based, quality education.