There has never been a time in the human history that Africa has ever had the most youthful society other than our time. The majority of the population is now young in several states across the continent, but this scenario has happened at a time when development is lagging behind to cushion their future.
Given the contemporary economic slowdown, which has led to budget cuts, the situation is not only affecting government and big business, but is also hindering the wellbeing of education, self-reliance and derailed the role of the youth in the future development of the nation.
The Namibian government is not the only government under pressure to improve public sector performance. Teresa Curristine famously said governments are expected to provide more public services with less public spending.
Our current economic challenges that have led to budget cuts have seen schools being affected with reports, suggesting some schools are likely to face closure. As it stands, from primary to institutions of higher learning there are clear indications of stress being felt due to resource limitations, as government funding is being withdrawn.
According to the human development index report, education and skills development are pillars based on productivity across different sectors and geographies, therefore a cornerstone of any strategy. If Namibia is to realise a secure future there is need to consider investing in the welfare of the youth of the country through improving education funding and not cutting resources allocated to this sector.
As government seeks to identify best practices in delivering public services in a cost-effective manner through budget cuts, as a nation, we should look at the impacts of policy options on various age groups in society.
Government has good intensions in pursuit of effective and efficient expenditure, but development players should come on board and collectively design competitive measures. At this juncture we must work beyond effectiveness and efficiency to rather deploy an all-inclusiveness approach that does not create inequality in the process.
Implementation of budget cuts have results that directly impact the poor as a result of service withdrawal. Kavango Region has for long been affected by school dropouts. If ten schools are to be closed, there may be reasons to re-strategise and safeguard those few learners. That number of pupils that were attending school is likely to add to statistics of school dropouts.
Though reports that pupils will be transferred to nearby schools sound reasonable, how sustainable will it be in the near future? These are poor communities that may not be able to afford sending children to schools far from their localities. Moreover, can these kids endure walking long distances to access education?
Government is faced with situations where it has to make difficult choices that in the long run can strengthen public institutions in rendering public services. Such decision routes contribute to how government reconnects with its development priorities, and reviews its performance on how and what it achieves with taxpayers’ money until it finds sustainable solutions that leave no one behind.
Decision makers are under pressure to deliver public goods. To me, such pressure must be shared together with other development practitioners. We should know that political cycles are timebound and at times decisions are influenced by this factor.
Citizens are in great expectations, but we should support our government to realise the best possible solutions that are more equitable to all groups in society.
Development partners, such as USAID, have been complementing government efforts through the Basic Education Systems programme, the Youth and Workforce Development programme for the out of school and through higher education scholarships. UNDP again has a number of programmes, among them it initiated a partnership with the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service on youth training across the country.
Such developments are necessary to drive the agenda of active citizenship among the youth, allowing them to directly participate in local development. I believe this is the drive behind the Harambee Prosperity Plan, which has as its aim that no one should be left behind.
During the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, President Hage Geingob said we pledge our full support to advancing a people-centred approach in doing business. In his speech, the president spoke about advancing human dignity for all and reiterated that Namibia values the empowerment of the youth.
If we make use of the appropriate aggregated information and establish our national standing on education and human development it could enable us to see how this sector has suffered over the years. As such, we could find reasons to protect the available schools and learners.
* Gilbert Mandaga is a student at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) studying Public Management. Email firstname.lastname@example.org