NAMIBIA's economic competitiveness is being pulled down on the global stage by, among other things, the high Grade 10 examination failure rate.
This was revealed by Prime Minister Hage Geingob while officiating at the first ever three-day Hardap Education Conference which started at Mariental yesterday.
Expressing concern about the fact that too many students are still failing Grade 10 examinations, Geingob said young women or men who do not complete high school and move towards possessing tertiary education is at a competitive disadvantage.
"It is for this reason, among others, that we are unable to attract certain greenfield investments and have slipped down the World Economic Forum's competitiveness ranking from four to seven," Geingob charged.
Geingob said there seemed to be a culture in Namibia for people to repeat grades and remarked: "It looks like we are in a country fighting to repeat (grades). What kind of concept is that?"
He said Namibia has been offering free education all these years, but people are only boasting about it now after the payment of school development funds was scrapped. "We must now talk about free tertiary education," Geingob said, adding that the private sector must assist the government in providing scholarships to more students.
"A country is not built by philosophers. We come from an apartheid background which is still haunting us, and we don't want to work with our hands, all of us want to wear a tie".
Geingob said Namibia will not achieve the Namibia Development Plan 4 target to become the most competitive economy in SADC in less than four years if a large number of pupils are struggling to pass Grade 10 examinations.
"We have a responsibility to help reverse this trend. Research shows that countries with well-educated populace have vigorous economies. Countries that have invested in higher education are seeing fruits of investments," Geingob told the conference.
In her welcoming remarks, Hardap governor Katrina Hanse-Himarwa said the staging of the education conference with the theme 'Striving for Grade 10 Academic Excellence' was a collective initiative of the region's inhabitants.
She said the people realised there was something wrong with the education of their children and decided to rectify it.
The region has been occupying the bottom place on the national Grade 10 result ranking over the past two years.
Hanse-Himarwa said the education conference aims to investigate and diagnose the factors and challenges which have resulted in poor Grade 10 performances in the region.
"Our parents told us that were are the first people who were able to read and write," Hanse-Himarwa quipped, adding that she refuses to embrace the Biblical statement that "the first shall be the last".
Also speaking at the event, Old Mutual Africa Operations managing director Johannes !Gawaxab advised the conference that the strategic priorities of the acceleration agenda should include strengthening of teaching and school leadership, replication of successes and turning around low performing schools, re-designing support services to schools, prioritizing recruitment, hiring and development of top notch teachers, and expansion of time required for teaching and studies as the traditional school day is no longer sufficient.