Is Namibia using correct measures to achieve quality education?

The government regards education as a fundamental human right. Kofi Ananan said: “Education is the great equalizer of our time, it gives hope to the hopeless and creates chances for those without it”. The Dakar Framework for Action on Education noted that quality education is a key enabler for sustainable development. Carol Bellamy, the Chairperson of the Global Partnership for Education said “education should not be seen as a sideline, but as an anchor to development policy”.

Although the UN and other developmental stakeholders view quality education as a key enabler for sustainable development, the way the targets and goals are set make it difficult to effectively monitor them. The targets are also vague and not measurable.

The sustainable development goal 4 (which is quality education) targets do not consider how the social-economic factors, especially in developing countries like Namibia, impact the implementation of quality education. The targets assume that all countries have the same infrastructure, social net and economic standing.

Namibia has made great strides to achieve target 4.1 by (“ensure by 2030, all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes”) for example, seeing an increase in enrolments in both genders in primary education from 60% in 1990 to 99% in 2020. The government has also heavily invested in school feeding programmes across the country, which is commendable. However, the quality of education that the learners receive is compromised by various challenges.

These challenges include, but not limited to, insufficient budgetary allocation to build schools, poor maintenance of existing school structures, lack of sufficient qualified teachers, and lack of resources like books, laboratories, e-learning centre, ablution structures, water and electricity. Furthermore, there is no sufficient infrastructure and resources made for children with disabilities and other special needs across the country.

The Namibian 2021 Voluntary National Review Report on the Implementation of the SDGs cited that the government targeted to construct 255 new classrooms countrywide, but only managed to construct 89 new classrooms in all 14 regions. The low figure was attributed to insufficient budget provision.

There are companies like MTC who have come on the bandwagon to assist the government in its plight to build schools, however, more companies need to come to the fore. The corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives in Namibia need to be coordinated better.

Moreover, there is a need to create a national overachieving body that works alongside the National Planning Commission. This body will be a one-stop place where corporates, individuals and other entities can go and based on the industry they emanate from, be given areas where their contribution will be most felt.

The telecommunications companies can for example, be given the responsibility to focus all their CSR efforts in either maintaining the existing school structures or building new ones. The Banks, as seen with the upgrade of the Katutura Emergency Centre, can be given the responsibilities to cater to public hospitals and clinics.

That way, contributions are not fragmented and thinly spread, as impact is less felt.  Lastly, Namibia needs to propose new targets under the quality of education SDG goal, which aligns more with the socioeconomic context of global south countries. 

*Morna Ikosa is a seasoned communications & stakeholder engagement consultant. With an affinity for sustainable development matters.

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