Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA) CEO Franz Gertze explains to New Era journalist Kuzeeko Tjitemisa about the Authority’s regulatory framework and mandate, in an interview conducted last week.
Kuzeeko Tjitemisa (KT): What is NQA, what does it do and why does it do what it does?
Franz Gertze (FG): NQA is a statutory body, regulated in terms of the National Qualifications Authority Act of 1996.
Among others, NQA has legislative obligations to set up and administer a national qualifications framework; accredit training providers, evaluate and set the occupational standards for any occupation, job, post or positions in any career structure.
KT: Since its creation, what have been the achievements of the NQA?
FG: We count our achievements based on how effectively we discharge of our mandate, which is to set up and administer frameworks, to evaluate qualifications, to accredit institutions and persons [as outlined in the act].
When the Act was mooted, nobody spoke about NQA, about quality or accreditation. Today, the NQA has almost become part of the language everyone speaks. For example, these days people will not send their children to study at institutions if they are not sure NQA will recognise that qualification. That for me is impactful.
In addition, when the NQA was established there were almost no Namibian qualifications. Now we have thousands of Namibian qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).
[Prior to establishing NQA], no local institution was accredited except for the public ones, which were established by Acts of [Parliament]. Now we have 50 institutions that are accredited, with an intake of over close to 20 000 learners each year. Overall, if one looks at the number of training institutions operating in Namibia and the qualifications that they offer, I’d say we have made significant inroads.
At regional level, we are part of the SADC qualifications framework. The NQA is actually one of the institutions being benchmarked with for best practice. Many countries come here to look at what Namibia is doing in terms qualifications frameworks, in terms accreditation, standard setting and recognition of qualifications. Those are some of the achievements that one can speak about.
KT: What kind of organisations should be accredited with the NQA and why?
FG: The Fifth National Development Plan (NDP5), outlines tourism, agriculture and mining as growth sectors. The NQA’s responsibility in this regard is to ensure that the qualifications offered in the country directly speak to the skills gaps in those sectors.
We have to make sure that institutions and qualifications are fit for the purpose and relevant to the country’s developmental goals. We have the responsibility to work together with our stakeholders in the education and training sector, to ensure that the qualifications being offered are of quality, and that when learners graduates they enter into a growth space where there is potential for work.
KT: To what extent have organisations operating in Namibia been forthcoming and willing to be accredited with the NQA? And what has been the benefit of such accreditation to the organisations in question themselves, NQA itself and the general public?
FG: Reflecting on the last accreditation certificate award function we had this year, essentially all of the training providers indicated how they now see the benefit of accreditation and doing the right thing. Being a quality assured institution not only elevates the institution in terms of the quality of its output, but also gives learners peace of mind to know that they are studying towards quality qualifications.
The number of people coming to NQA asking how they should apply is steadily increasing on a yearly basis. But also, there are those thinking that going through NQA is a long road and they’d rather take the short way out.
KT: Is there anything that NQA can do against organisations that should have accredited with it but have not done so?
FG: We are busy with the amendment of the legal framework particularly in dealing with unaccredited institutions – so that if you are not accredited we will close you down. But I also believe that people are not empowered by laws but by knowledge and attitude. So while we are changing law, we are also enhancing our communication to educate the public about demanding quality education and to stay away from unaccredited institutions.
We appreciate what the media does in terms of educating the public and together we should continue protecting our children and building the nation together.
KT: How does NQA get to know about such organisations usually?
FG: Most of the information now reaches us through our Fraud Hotline which the public can use to anonymously report any fraudulent and unethical behavior relating to qualifications. We also get notified by community activists and even through the media. This enables us to act against bogus institutions.
KT: Is such accreditation indefinite or limited?
FG: It is limited. In most cases it is less than three years. Each institution is accredited for a specific period, after which they have to reapply. If they don’t meet the requirements they might not get re-accredited. It doesn’t mean that if you were accredited five years ago that you will be accredited again. You have to meet the criteria. This is very important for the public to know.
KT: Has there been any instances where NQA has withdrawn the accreditation of any organisation? What were the circumstances?
FG: We have done it quite a while ago, with the most recent being five years ago. These days we empower prospective learners with information about an institution’s accreditation status, and the learners themselves decide not to compromise their qualifications and thus do not enroll in that particular institution.
But we are also looking for the heavy-handed approach where we can go to an institution to tell them, ‘look we have gone through these steps with you and you have not abided or complied. Now this is a final warning and [if you still don’t comply] we are closing [you] down. That’s the power we are seeking.
KT: What follows such a withdrawal usually, if any organisation wishes to operate again after the withdrawal of its accreditation?
FG: They have to reapply, but there is also a prescribed ‘grace period’ within which any identified issues they had must be addressed before submitting a new application.
KT: What have been the instances of organsiations operating without accreditation and the validity of the qualifications they issue?
FG: If an institution operates without accreditation the qualifications they award will not be recognised - that’s the point.
That’s why we don’t want people to enroll in unaccredited institutions whether they are operating in Namibia or anywhere else in the world.
Now, again I want to add a new dynamic that we have observed. There are some institutions claiming to have “agreements with institutions in other countries” and they are printing certificates supposedly from those partners. This is dangerous and we would like to caution the public against these new developments.
We also need to uproot fraudulent qualifications that may be circulating in the country because they will contaminate the whole market, and the consequences thereof can be very dire for the country.
KT: NQA is also involved in assessing foreign qualifications. What are such assessments based on?
FG: There is a whole gazetted set of regulations. Essentially, we verify that the awarding institution is accredited in the country of its origin, and if the qualifications are registered on a national framework.
We also look at the whether the qualification has the required credits in order to be recognized at a certain level. For example, it doesn’t help if the institution is accredited, the qualification is registered on a national framework but the degree is offered over two months. Such a qualification will not meet the national standards to be recognized as a degree.
KT: There have been instances of Namibians studying in foreign countries for their qualifications to be invalid or not recognised in Namibia. How do such situations arise and how can they be avoided?
FG: We always advise people to contact the NQA before they enroll for their studies in order to verify the accreditation status of both the qualification and the programme they wish to pursue. That way they receive a greenlight as confirmation that the qualification they obtain will be recognized in Namibia. We actually appeal to the funding institutions to consult the NQA in order to confirm the quality assurance status of institutions before awarding funding to learners. Doing so will protect our people and ensure that they don’t waste time and money studying for qualifications that will not be recognised for any purpose in Namibia.
2018-11-13 09:40:16 8 months ago