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Higher education must adapt to new normal

2020-07-07  Albertina Nakale

Higher education must adapt to new normal
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Higher education institutions must come up with innovative solutions and transition to a new normal amidst the current Covid-19 crisis. 
This is the view of Namibia Qualifications Authority spokesperson Catherine Shipushu who said higher education institutions should remain fit-for-purpose, future-focused and aligned to customer expectations even in the most unusual times. 
“While we cannot be sure what the future will look like, our moral and statutory obligation remains to ensure that education and training remains responsive to the developmental needs of the country, and that Namibia produces graduates that move the economy forward,” Shipushu told New Era. 

She added the NQA is currently concluding a study to determine the preparedness of tertiary institutions to adhere to quality assurance requirements during the migration of courses to the online mode of delivery. 
The findings will aid in determining the strategies and measures to be implemented to ensure that minimum quality assurance standards are met during online teaching and learning, Shipushu said. 

However, she noted, the Covid-19 pandemic brought operational disruption for many organisations and the NQA was not spared. “We had to rise to the challenge and navigate the uncharted waters by implementing measures that not only respond to the immediate crisis, but ensure long-term organisational resilience. Numerous Namibians and fellow SADC citizens submit their qualifications for recognition by the NQA hoping to pursue further studies or for gainful employment,” Shipushu maintained. 
During these unprecedented times, NQA tilted its focus towards ensuring that services remained accessible to clients throughout the different stages of the state of emergency. 

But there were some hurdles that NQA could not overcome. Shipushu stated some of their services such as the evaluation of qualifications are dependent on consultations with third parties outside of Namibia whose input is necessary in determining the authenticity of qualifications. 

With the lockdown and other restrictions implemented across the world, NQA experienced delays in obtaining the necessary information and this slowed down the processing of applications. Another service that has been severely impacted is the accreditation of training providers. 
Due to the restrictions on travelling and the suspension of face-to-face teaching, Shipushu said their accreditation teams have not been able to conduct the required site visits for quality assurance purposes. 

This, she said, created a domino effect that adversely impact other processes such as the registration of qualifications on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), which is directly linked to the accreditation process. 
“It is important to note that the accreditation process costs millions of Namibian dollars in terms of expertise required, the cost of preparation for the training providers and other related expenses. Therefore a single delay in the process may result in a negative spill over effect involving a number of stakeholders,” she stressed. She added the NQA has remained fully operational throughout this pandemic, save for some of the service components that are beyond their control. 

“As an employer, we are cognisant of the fact that our people are now experiencing unprecedented disruption to job security and as an organisation our immediate objective remains to preserve our financial resources in order to prevent job losses or salary cuts for our employees,” she assured.
Moreover, she said, unaccredited institutions remain a critical challenge as they operate in the shadows. 

She said NQA enhanced its public education interventions in order to embed the individual demand for quality education in society. 
At its meeting held on 22 April 2020, the NQA Council granted accreditation to two new institutions namely, Niche Training Academy based in Walvis Bay and the Ongha Vocational Training Centre located in the Ohangwena region, increasing the number of accredited Namibian institutions to 58. Between January and June 2020, the NQA evaluated a total of 1 394 qualifications.

2020-07-07  Albertina Nakale

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