21 September 2012

Namibia: Academia Embrace Vision 2030

Windhoek — Namibia aspires to be a prosperous and industrialised nation by the year 2030 in line with its long-term economic blue print that could elevate it to First World status.

For Vision 2030 - the long-term developmental agenda - to be achieved, a well trained human resource, skills and expertise in various fields and key sectors of the economy is required.

However, commentators have labelled the Namibian education system as being in a "mess", which as a result, brought about a shortage of various skills. Immediately after the launch of the fourth National Development Programme (NDP4), Swanu MP Usutuaije Maamberua, noted that there should be tertiary academic programmes focused and narrowed down to the main priorities identified in the NDP4.

In the absence of focused courses, Maamberua sauys, institutions of higher learning would continue to offer courses that are not in line with national development priorities, in the end dumping more graduates on the streets and increasing the unemployment burden on the country.

The University of Namibia (Unam) and the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN), in response to Maamberua's suggestions, say they currently provide courses that are in sync with Vision 2030.

PoN says the fact Namibia, at independence, had very few courses in the fields of mathematics, science and technology, and this continues to haunt Namibia more than 20 years on.

"It is then perhaps the appropriate time for the higher education sector to examine this truism, and the Polytechnic's contribution to these scarce fields is a good place to start," PoN said in response to questions from New Era. The polytechnic pat itself on the back for being one of the higher education institutions that have worked hard to develop programmes, leading to registered qualifications of certificates, diplomas and degrees in these scarce fields.

"In 2001, the Polytechnic had five programmes based on mathematics, science and technology, and a total of 1 004 students were enrolled in these five programmes for that year," says the Poly.

The number of academic programmes based on mathematics, science and technology is said to have doubled to 14 in 2011, including six programmes leading to degrees suitable for professional registration. These are accounting, engineering, biomedical sciences, environmental health sciences, surveying and architecture.

"In 2012 the Polytechnic made history as the institution graduated the first cohort of locally trained biomedical and environmental health professionals. This is a first for Namibia as these qualifications were previously only offered by higher education institutions outside the country," PoN said.

Additional new programmes would be introduced in 2013 in the scarce fields as part of efforts to drive Namibia towards the goal of providing the scarce skills so desperately needed by the economy. "These skills will enable the Namibian economy to engage in value-addition activities in the effort to realise Vision 2030."

Unam on the other hand broke down the courses in connection to NDP4, as the university felt Vision 2030 is broad and all courses on offer could contribute in one way or the other.

Utaara Hoveka, the university public relations officer said the four main industries that have been identified as the pillars to the attainment of targets set in NDP4 have are being catered for and courses are being revised.

The courses that have been revised to meet stakeholders' needs are tourism and agriculture. A programme in logistics and supply chain management is also being developed under the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences.

In addition a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, consisting of eight programmes that cover electrical engineering, electronic engineering, mechanical engineering, and other engineering disciplines that were launched in February 2009.

"This curriculum enjoys full support from the government of the Republic of Namibia, which considers it to be a precursor for the attainment of Vision 2030 with respect to producing key human resources in engineering and technology," reads Unam's prospectus.

Government has since invested N$150 million in phase one of the construction of mechanical and administration buildings at the faculty of engineering and information technology in Ongwediva.

Unam also offers the Bachelor of Science that aims to promote student interest in the learning and teaching of science, and producing good quality science graduates.

The scope of the faculty of science is said to allow the university to modules and do research in areas such as biodiversity conservation, sustainable utilisations of resources energy production and many others that underpin the future prosperity and quality of life in Namibia.

"The faculty contributes immensely towards meeting the vision and mission of the University of Namibia. Through this, we are playing our part in helping Namibia achieve the goals set out in Vision 2030, the National Development Plan and the ETSIP targets," reads another prospectus.

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