Namibia has been ranked among the countries with a high participation in higher education through open and distance learning (tertiary level entrants) on the African continent.
This was revealed by Professor Mpine Makoe who is the Head of the institute for Open Distance Learning at the University of South Africa (Unisa).
Makoe was the guest of honour at the Namibian College of Open Learning (Namcol) graduation ceremony, where 481 students who pursued open distance learning courses in various fields were capped.
Makoe said Namibia has a 10 percent participation rate while South Africa has 17 percent, but other neighbouring countries such as Malawi have a very low participation rate at less than 1 percent.
Makoe said the African average participation rate is 6 percent.
“The country that has the highest participation in Africa is South Africa at 17 percent – but even that is much lower than the global average of 26 percent of the tertiary education age cohort enrolled in higher education institutions,” she revealed.
According to her, in many economically developed countries the higher education participation rate is more than 50 percent.
She explained that there is a clear link between development and people with high-level skills that they got through higher education.
To address this, she said, the governments of Namibia and South Africa have put together many policy documents that give the direction in which the countries should go to improve higher education provision.
She emphasized that the efficacy of open distance learning in promoting access to marginalized students is premised on the notion that it can accommodate an increased and more diverse student population at reduced costs.
Further, she said, in countries like Namibia, which is geographically big with a sparse population, distance education makes sense because it enables access to education by marginalized communities.
She also applauded the Namibian government for identifying distance learning as the only feasible approach to expanding access to education.
She added that the government has also recognized the importance of using technology in creating opportunities for students who were previously denied access to higher education.
Digital technologies, she said, have increased the possibilities of open distance learning, thereby removing barriers to access and success.
According to her, almost all institutions that adopted the open distance learning delivery mode did so to address the social mandate of encouraging and opening access to education.
She said the provision of education at this scale is even more critical in African countries, where there is a huge need for a skilled and trained workforce to enhance economic growth and global competitiveness.