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OPININON - The future of criminal justice studies in Namibia

2021-04-01  Staff Reporter

OPININON - The future of criminal justice studies in Namibia
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People are not only supposed to live in safer neighbourhoods but equally in an environment that provides peace of mind and allows human beings to co-exist, respect each other, and carry out daily activities without fearing that crime would engulf the society and destabilise livelihoods. That is the purpose of criminal justice. 

In a layman’s interpretation, criminal justice should not be disconnected from every-second protection of human life and property. 

Therefore, the study of criminal justice is the reinforcement of such understanding, to enable society to reap the benefits of protection, crime prevention, safeguarding livelihoods, and promotion of justice for all. 

However, independence and freedoms created equivocal thinking which seemingly has resulted in an uncertain future for the majority of people in Namibia, especially the poor and vulnerable section of society. Protection of society either by the police or the criminal justice system becomes a costly exercise, hence, requires reformation to realise the intended direction. 

Criminologists have conceded that the ‘criminal justice system may not be an effective tool in preventing crime due to poorly coordinated structures in the system’. This is where the problem lies, and scholarly, perhaps the opportunity the institutions of higher learning should seize to make criminal justice studies in Namibia a visible field.

Interestingly, criminal justice study in Namibia is in the infancy stage, requiring ‘cautious preferment and constant development’ if its future should be horizoned. The questions are: Does criminal justice study has a future in Namibia (sustainability issues); are people aware of the important role the criminal justice system play in society. The former part of this question informs the orientation of this article, and that’s where the debate should starts. 

By design, criminal justice is a component of ‘social science that attempts to identify and explain patterns of criminal behaviour, and analyse society’s ability to control crime and delinquency’, thus, ‘this field of study covers crime, criminals, and the criminal justice system’. 

The study of criminal justice should open up society’s way of thinking and understanding of crime, antisocial behaviour, and interest in the manner the criminal justice system operates. This line of thinking echoes social compact, respect, and recognition of humanity. Logically, there is a need to reflect on the past, present, and future of criminal justice studies in Namibia, its impact on society (all generations), the opportunities criminal justice studies present in advancing a habitable society, without necessarily ignoring the challenges that threaten the future and sustainability of criminal justice studies. 

As a developing nation, Namibia is in a trajectory position to stand among the best to train and educate her human capital to match the demand and knowledge necessary in Africa’s quest to acquire criminal justice professionals and experts needed in the 4th industrial revolution. With calculated linkage in many areas to the ‘big brother’ – South  Africa, whose criminal justice studies are well-developed particularly in areas of policing and correctional management, Namibia has the potential to become a Centre of Excellence of criminal justice studies. 

We grew up in an era in which South Africa has been the country of focus in terms of policing and correctional management studies. This is so because of the quality of education South African universities could offer. However, now it appears that many Namibians who chose criminal justice as the focus of studies have realised that Namibia too has a lot to offer in this field and the relevance of those qualifications to the labour market. 

Yet, the questions that keep lingering in potential students’ mind are: Does the country have the infrastructures and resources needed to take criminal justice studies to the next level? Do criminal justice key stakeholders and institutions of higher learning in the country have the required capacities to develop, sustain, fund, support, and make Namibia a centre of attraction of criminal justice studies? Who should take the lead?

Considering the above questions, some aspects should be put into perspective to visualise the opportunities Namibia has in promoting criminal justice studies, and the challenges that must be overcome to realise and sustain the future of criminal justice studies. 

 

Some of these are as follows:

- Population size and objectives that the country wishes to achieve are always a determinant factor in influencing criminal justice studies. The context of this issue is self-explanatory but alarming as the country’s criminal justice system (and institutions) is very limited. It appears the labour market is already saturated. The police, correctional service, courts, and security firms could only allow a very limited number of officials to pursue studies in the criminal justice field. Similarly, they can absorb a very limited number of graduates, as freshmen, in their employment. Therefore, training and graduating more graduates in the criminal justice field put pressure on criminal justice institutions. Even if the opportunity in this regard is self-inviting in terms of creating the necessary human capital, the challenges are overwhelming, postulating whether criminal justice studies would stand the test of time. Moreover, unemployment among criminal justice graduates may discourage potential students to study criminal justice.

 - Key stakeholders’ support and contribution to criminal justice study initiatives and programmes are issues worth considering. Closer and functional ties between key criminal justice stakeholders and institutions of higher learning need to be revisited to promote and sustain criminal justice studies in Namibia. The police, for example, have well-established training infrastructure and facilities that can be utilised, through cooperation agreement, to ensure that criminal justice students receive well-grounded theoretical and practical knowledge, skills, and competence demanded by the labour market. While this is potentially an enticing opportunity, it requires active collaborative efforts and committed engagement to inform the way forward. The challenge, therefore, is the capacity and systematic direction of what the future hold.

 - Diversifying the criminal justice studies and attracting potential students regionally and internationally might appear to be a tall order. Taking into account that Namibia is a developing nation with limited capacity, resources, and academic institutions, attracting foreign students to study criminal justice at Namibia universities is an unexplainable challenge. While the quality of criminal justice programmes offer meets the requirements associated with quality assurance and National Qualifications Framework, it appears that such understanding has not yet made an impact across the Namibian borders. Thus, Namibia and her academic institutions should seize the opportunity, and convince potential students from other countries, through robust marketing and advertisement, that the criminal justice studies in the country are comparable and offer all ingredients one needs to master criminal justice skills and competence. Best knowledge and learning takes place when students from diverse backgrounds come together and share knowledge and experience, hence, the advantage of drawing in foreign students. The question is whether there is preparedness to fulfil that.

- Available infrastructures and facilities are not conducive to learning. Criminal justice studies like any other academic learning require students to ‘learn, unlearn and relearn’. However, the lack of appropriate facilities such as laboratories, simulation stations, etc. may result in ‘half-baked’ criminal justice graduates. In this case, government commitment and material support are needed if criminal justice study in the country is to be sustained. Provocatively, there is a need to establish an institute of criminal justice studies in the country rather than ‘various units/centres scattered across academic institutions. The approach of ‘one institution is offering this, and the other is offering that’ may have repercussions on criminal justice studies. It will weaken if not the demise of criminal justice studies in the country. Unnoticed, there is an inviting need to establish one strong, well-equipped, and resourced centre of criminal justice studies in Namibia. 

 -  As a complementary effort to sustain criminal justice studies in the country, there is a need for the Namibian Police Force, in collaboration with Correctional Service, to establish a Police Academy (in addition to police training centres/colleges) that must be accredited by Namibia Qualifications Authority.  The academy can offer 1-3 year policing and correctional management qualifications at National Qualifications Framework levels 6 and 7. The Academy can serve as a recruitment centre for both the police and correctional service. As indicated above, the Police have good facilities that can be utilised for both theory and practice by criminal justice students in preparing them for a better tomorrow. Here, I am not implying that institutions of higher learning in the country cannot train and educate, but moving into the future, the criminal justice system requires properly-grounded graduates with blended knowledge. Institutions of higher learning can focus more on postgraduate studies in criminal justice and may receive well-prepared candidates from the police Academy. This may materialise if institutions of higher learning combine efforts and resources to create one institute of criminal justice studies focussing on postgraduate studies. The criminal justice system is at the core of functional democracy and good governance without which public and private sector governance might be compromised.

 

*Tuhafeni Helao (PhD) has 22 years teaching experience at secondary school and university. This is his personal opinion.


2021-04-01  Staff Reporter

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