By:Josef Kefas Sheehama
An education without technology does not prepare Namibians with the skills that the world requires.
Technology should be omnipresent in education. It is the demand for change that propels education systems to produce a country’s innovators, inventors, creators, problem solvers, entrepreneurs, global citizens, change-makers and critical thinkers.
Education is a catalyst for development. Therefore it must become ubiquitous in our lives and increasingly present in teaching and learning, as there is a critical relationship between technology and teaching in this time and age.
I asked myself a question that has been troubling me: Where are we going as a country if we are always importing skills and knowledge, whilst skills can be learned too?
Economically important minerals like gold, lithium, platinum, uranium and diamond, among others, have always been owned, controlled and managed by foreigners. Mineral resources are the key material basis for socio-economicdevelopment. Statistics show that more than 95% of the energy used by mankind, 80% of industrial raw materials and 70% of raw materials for agricultural production are from mineralresources. A lack of skills is one of the binding constraints to growth and development in the mining industry. A handful of Namibians who are skillful in minerals are taking advantage of the country’s resources.
It is therefore of vital importance that Namibia restructure its economy so that the wealth is shared by all its people, to ensure that everyone enjoys a decent quality of life. The call for economic emancipation must be embraced by all of us to defuse the ticking time bomb. Economic freedom and prosperity require a culture of learning and teaching. It requires an educational system directed to the full development of the human personality.
The deepening moral degeneration in our country highlights the fact that our educational system must address both the spiritual and material aspects of the human being.
Latest developments have attracted the attention of Namibians who are worried about the handling of the country’s resources. New information about how the lithium mine was established points to many flaws in the licensing process, right from the awarding of exploration rights. Educated people have a picture of the socio-economic setup of the country and can help in moving the country forward.
If a country wants to ensure that there are equal opportunities for everyone regardless of race, gender or social class, equal access to education is necessary. We need our people to acquire technical know-how in mining to help safeguard our minerals.
A simple truth in life is that no one is ever was born with skill. It is developed through exercise, through repetition, through a blend of learning and reflection that is both painstaking and rewarding. And it takes time.
That is why investing in skills is so vital to a country’s economic growth and competitiveness. In particular, an education system must be oriented towards producing young people who have both strong foundational skills as well as specific skills for jobs. Therefore, as long as we donot have the technology, avenues for technology transfer and value addition to our minerals, foreigners will come and extract our minerals as unfinished materials. And Namibia will always buy the finished products at a high price as we continue to neglect adding value to our minerals. Foreigners are taking advantage of this confusion and have been milking the country’s wealth for a pittance.
Lack of skills hinders development – Mineral Resources
The Minerals Policy of Namibia vision “is to achieve a high level of responsible development of national resources in which Namibia becomes a significant producer of mineral products while ensuring maximum sustainable contribution to the socio-economic development of the country”.
The Namibian Constitution, article 1 (2) states:“All power shall vest in the people of Namibia who shall exercise their sovereignty through the democratic institutions of the State”. Article 100, Sovereign Ownership of Natural Resources reads:”Land, water and natural resources below and above the surface of the land and in the continental shelf and within the territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone of Namibia shall belong to the State if they are not otherwise lawfully owned”.
Therefore, the people need to benefit from Namibia’s natural resources. We need to respect the laws of the country. The mining sector has procedures that must be followed. Lawlessness in the mining sector cannot be condoned.
Namibia needs a reformed natural resources sector where the government and the citizens agree on how best to order our minerals. Future generations will need an account from us for these resources that we are giving away for nothing. Huge inequalities bring forth the need to incorporate equity criteria in resources distribution and the prioritisation of vulnerable sections of the populace. Inequality is not inevitable. It is a policy choice.
In order to build a more comprehensive education system to deal with our skills shortfall, it is equally essential to modernise the collection and analysis of information and to make these systems more efficient. The reform process is expected to produce a flexible curriculum that allows for complementary alternative pathways, which provide students with choices of specialisation and interest.
Namibia needs to pull itself out of this unfavourable situation when it comes to the ownership and exploitation of its natural resources. We need to strategically reposition ourselves to negotiate our own terms regarding our minerals and be at the centre of the boom that will be created by Namibia’s own demand for manufactured and industrial products. We cannot give away our resources.
The next generation will condemn us for our collective failures. The World Bank projected that sub-Saharan Africa’s growth will slow in 2025 amid falling commodity prices, a prediction that has already been felt across the continent.
The whole world is moving towards lithium. It is a transition mineral used for the movement to renewable energy. So it is sad that we donot have a strong policy document on lithium. When you look at the informal manner in which people are extracting the mineral, it means there is going to be an environmental catastrophe.
To add value requires the refining and processing of the mineral resources locally before exporting them abroad. The government’s top priority should be achieving inclusive economic participation, entrepreneurship, increased job opportunities, economic growth and development, improved standard of living and poverty alleviation.
The government must ensure that existing infrastructure planning mechanisms and programmes properly consider infrastructure requirements for mineral beneficiation. The business sector has to assist in infrastructure development to facilitate local beneficiation of raw materials.
Over and above, the government should create a conducive environment for mining companies and other stakeholders to invest in research, learning, innovation and development. By so doing, poverty, inequality and unemployment rate shall undoubtedly be history in Namibia.To this end, the reform of the education system will require additional financial resources and better distribution. The large inequalities underscore the need to include criteria of equity and prioritisation of the vulnerable in society. In this sense, education financing as well as fair and efficient resource allocation are key to respond to the skills crisis and to guarantee the right to quality education for everyone.
Undeniably, with quality education we can safeguard our minerals. I also believe in the formation of a permanent body of knowledgeable people tasked with gathering information on the status of minerals and an exploitation strategy.