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Opinion - The meaning of 7% allocated to TVET centres 

2021-10-26  Staff Reporter

Opinion - The meaning of 7% allocated to TVET centres 
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The Namibian newspaper recently quoted the minister of higher education, training and innovation (MHET&I) emphasising that ‘robust technical and vocational education and training (TVET) will guarantee Namibia and Africa a ‘rightful seat’ in the global economy. 

This statement has the right tone, provides a degree of confidence in the MHET&I that it has a clear agenda on how to use education and training to solve Namibia’s socio-economic problems. Also, though over-ambitious, the minister’s statement is beyond criticism as it offers optimism to the current and future generations that better days are within our reach. 

Unfortunately, critics may argue that in the current TVET environment the ministry’s official statement is just an over-ambitious public policy stance. For instance, many critics of over-ambitious policy assert that Namibian authorities have failed to move their policies from theoretical abstraction to practical application. And it is that failure to connect practice to theory that continues to render policies and plans ineffective in solving Namibia’s socio-economic challenges. 

Other analysts maintain that while Namibia can achieve a robust vocational education and training, such a view is contradictory. To achieve a robust TVET system in Namibia will depend on a combination of political will, an innovative funding formula and TVET de-stigmatisation within the political echelons of power. Scholars continue to argue that political will is the sine qua non of policy success. In other words, literature concludes that lack of political will is the culprit for poorly implemented policy interventions in Namibia. But what is political will? Academics argue that political will exits when 1) a sufficient set of decision-makers 2) with a common understanding of a particular problem on the formal agenda 3) is committed to supporting 4) a commonly perceived, potentially effective policy solution.

Let’s deal with each of these four dimensions in the context of whether senior policymakers at the MHET&I honestly believe that TVET can be a robust system capable of improving Namibia’s agonising socio-economic problems. Available evidence shows that for the 2021/2022 financial year, the MHET&I asked for N$3.1 billion, broken down as follows: N$882 million for the University of Namibia (Unam), N$493.6 million for the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), and N$1.2 billion for the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF). In total, slightly more than N$2.5 billion was requested to fund 68 757 students enrolled in universities during the 2021/2022 financial year. 

Interestingly, the MHET&I requested only about N$402.5 million (or 7.70%) to fund 34,920 students enrolled in vocational training centres countrywide. What message does the MHET&I’s budget tell us in terms of its political will to develop a robust TVET system? The first message linked to our first domain of what constitutes political will suggests that of those in power, not enough policymakers genuinely support TVET as a key sector in the socio-economic development of Namibia. This means that although some policymakers may publicly express support or desire to reform TVET, they ironically block or derail the reform process during budget debates in or outside parliament. At executive level, one wonders why would the Namibian cabinet endorse a 7% to fund TVET, a sector which the presidency supports whole-heartedly? At the legislative level, why would different political parties religiously support a mere 7% to fund TVET centres? It is incredible!   

The second message from the MHET&I’s budget allocation is that neither policymakers from the ruling and opposition parties believe that TVET can contribute to Namibia’s socio-economic development. Another message is that most policymakers disagree with the notion that developing a robust TVET system requires government intervention. These two beliefs might have prejudiced the MHET&I dis-invest in the TVET sector and strongly defend the budget at all costs in parliament. 

The third message, however, is that the MHET&I is biased towards university education. There is no second-guessing the reasons the ministry requested for more than 80% budget allocation for higher education: preference matters. The budget allocation, however, strengthens the perception that university education is superior to TVET education. The number of students enrolled in TVET centres compared to universities also tells the same story. 

The fourth message from the budget figures is that the MHET&I offers a false political will. For instance, the 7% TVET budget is focused on short-term fixes to create the illusion that government is taking action to solve the citizens’ problems socio-economic challenges. Unfortunately, one could conclude that policymakers’ consensus to allocate 7% to TVET centres strengthens the argument that there is no real political commitment to finding real solutions to Namibia’s socio-economic problems.   

As you read this article imagine that every Namibian knows that the TVET sector suffers from a negative social status countrywide. Yet to date no decision maker has publicly come out to advocate for strengthening the TVET sector in the country. Besides the inspiring ideas written in Vision 2030, NPD5, Harambee Prosperity Plan 2, Vocational Education and Training Act and TVET Policy, one can argue that no policymaker in Namibia believes that TVET can be an answer to Namibia’s socio-economic troubles. What does the 7% for TVET centres mean to you? 

2021-10-26  Staff Reporter

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