• June 20th, 2019
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Let’s not politicise free education



Dr David Namwandi

Between 27th June and 1st July 2011 a national consensus building exercise period aiming at the renewal of commitment to education for every sector in Namibia took place. This was done under the theme: “Collective delivery on education promise: Improving the education system for quality learning outcomes and quality of life”. 

It was attended by more than one thousand participants across all sectors, regions and social strata, including various representatives from government ministries, members of parliament, regional governments, traditional leaders, churches, teachers ‘unions, student unions, youth representatives, private sector, civil society as well as international development partners.

His Excellency former President Hifikepunye Pohamba officially opened the conference, cautioning participants to thoroughly interrogate the education system with the aim of ensuring quality outcomes for national development. 
The then Prime Minister Nahas Angula told the conference that education will play a key role in transforming the political economy of Namibia.

In good faith the conference made recommendations, while some of the recommendations made were a re-enforcement of already agreed upon policies as implementation of some had been uneven, slow and in fact in some cases non-existent. Other recommendations focused on new challenges (curriculum review) which was inevitable given the scientific, technological as well as economic developments nationally and internationally.

All recommendations of the conferences were drafted within the confinement of our constitutional democracy where fundamental human rights and freedom, such as the right to culture (Article 19) and education (Article 20) are safeguarded. Ministry of education was mandated by the conference to ensure that all recommendations are fully implemented. As is customary, given the fact that many if not all recommendations had financial implications we at the ministry under the leadership of late Comrade Dr Abraham Iyambo, may his soul rest in peace, worked 24 hours around the clock and submitted these recommendations to Cabinet for consideration and subsequent approval. Our submission was discussed at great lengths in Cabinet sessions and cabinet in their wisdom approved it and these automatically became Cabinet resolutions.

One such Cabinet resolution, which has become a bone of contention today, is free education.
I am particularly disturbed by some statements appearing in the local print media such as that: “Decisions to scrap school fees was politically motivated” and that “one mistake politicians did was making education free…” 

These statements are misleading and can cause damage to the good intentions that the drafters of our constitution (Article 20) had. For any politician to distance him or herself from what should have been a collective responsibility is disheartening to say the least. 

Certainly, we all know the economy has not been doing well, but are such statements the best alternative to resolve the economic challenges? We must not forget that the same economic hardship felt by government is equally hard hitting to parents and guardians, thus it is not proper to start blaming each other when things are not going as planned. 
The nation must not allow politicians trying to curry favour with innocent citizens and paint themselves as “the saving grace” of the parents. This is a case of a pot calling the kettle black. 

After all, while free primary education was implemented during the previous dispensation, free secondary education has been implemented under the current administration. 

Let free education not be politicised as this was and still is a noble cause. We all know the economy has not been doing well. This was not to be anticipated during the implementation of free education. In my view there is nothing wrong with asking parents and stakeholders to help at a time when the economy is not at its best, but correct channels to review the situation should be pursued, instead of the character assassination of those who oversaw the roll out of the constitutionally correct free education regime.

In essence the attack is on former President Pohamba, his Cabinet including the current president, His Excellency Dr Hage Geingob and former Prime Minister Angula. 

However, ministry of education has the power to rescind Cabinet resolutions by drafting another Cabinet submission to re-introduce payment by parents, although I am not too sure if Cabinet under the leadership of Dr Geingob - one of the fathers of the Namibian constitution and one of the Cabinet members who resolved to introduce free education at both primary and secondary level - would be in favour of its reversal. 

Nations of the world are trying very hard to lessen the burden of payment of education fees by parents through the introduction of universal primary education and free secondary education. Many countries, including these below, have succeeded:

•    Mauritius (primary through to university) 
•    Germany (primary through to university)
•    Russia (primary through to university)
•    France (primary through to university)
•    Finland (primary through to university)
Botswana (primary through to university), the list is endless.
Some countries such as Mauritius do not have many natural resources like us, yet they have managed to educate their citizens by giving them free education from primary school, secondary until university education.
It is therefore not unrealistic to expect that Namibia could provide the same for its citizens. What we need, however, is a united front to devise ways and means of this becoming our reality even as we anticipate an improved economy.

* Dr David Namwandi is former minister of education. He is the founder of Namibia’s largest privately owned tertiary institution the International University of Management (IUM). 


New Era Reporter
2019-02-01 09:55:44 4 months ago

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