The secretary-general of the Commonwealth Queen’s Council, Patricia Scotland, has said more needs to be done to encourage employers, particularly the business community, to become more involved in partnering with Commonwealth universities by offering scholarships.
Scotland, who arrived in Namibia on Saturday and departs today, said businesses already contributing need to
be encouraged to increase the number of scholarships available.
Scotland, who spoke at the opening of a conference of the Council for Education in the Commonwealth (CEC) in Namibia, said scholarships go beyond financial support and make a vast difference in the lives of beneficiaries, which then cascade widely into communities and through successive generations.
This is the first time that an African country hosts the CEC in its 58 years of existence. The conference, which runs from August 28 to 30 is being held under the theme, ‘Leading The Elephant Out Of The Bush, Education And Business Together – Bridging The Gap.’
Scotland said the theme highlights the dynamic and symbiotic relationship between education, employment and economic development, on which we depend for a future of sustainable prosperity.
She said over 60 percent of the Commonwealth population is under 30 years of age. “And, so it is essential that we invest in the education of young people and work for them and with them on pathways into employment,” she remarked, adding that this means empowering young people and providing them with opportunities to reach their potential.
“We do this by investing in their skills, supporting their entrepreneurial ambitions and providing opportunities for further their participation in the local and global economy,” Scotland said.
Companion of the Order of the British Empire Sonny Leong supported Scotland by stating that education and business have to walk hand in hand for the benefit of all. Leong said business desperately needs skilled workers.
“Take the robotic sector, by 2020 average salaries will increase by 60 percent, yet more than a third of available jobs in robotics will remain vacant because of a shortage of skilled workers,” remarked Leong, who asked what role business can play in ensuring that workers have the needed skills.
“Similarly, academia needs to operate in models that serve the economy as it is now [and] as it will become,” he argued.
Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation Dr Becky Ndjoze-Ojo said she trusts the elephant will be led out of the bush and that salient issues and the needed synergy between education and business will bridge the gap. Ndjoze-Ojo said an inclusive Commonwealth should be one whose wealth truly serves the common good.
“It is a Commonwealth that is committed to higher education, training and innovation, particularly because 60 percent of its population is youth. It is a Commonwealth that should be concerned about youth unemployment and that thereto trains its youthful population in employability skills, entrepreneurship and vocational training. A gender sensitive Commonwealth could be an added advantage.”