As anomalies in the Vocational Education and Training sector mounds, the academia last week converged for a three-day symposium in the capital to deliberate on the current state of the sector.
The symposium put the blame squarely on the shoulders of government for deliberately stigmatizing the VET as a second class form of education.
While general education is considered as intellectually superior to vocational training and education in Namibia and the rest of Africa, Witwatersrand University’s Professor Peliwe Lolwana emphasised that exposure to quality education is not being equally necessitated as governments properly funded general education more than the VET sector.
This has thus brought about a stratified society where those exposed to quality general education take charge of key national institutions while students channeled out from the poorly funded VET sector occupy the bottom part of the social ladder, the professor revealed.
“Cultural differentiation of people based on educational exposure to take charge of national leadership is being endorsed by government to the exclusion of a large section of society. Better education for everybody betters everything,” she charged.
She urged the government of Namibia to consider VET as a social justice issue as well as expand and strengthen the current system which has been characterised by a weak teaching force at its core.
Exclusively speaking to The Villager, organiser of the event and Director at the Centre for Cooperative Education at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), Carva Pop emphasised that the prevailing stigmatization of the VET sector can be curbed if there was a multi-stakeholder approach to the problem and not only shifting blame on government.
“I do not think it’s only the government’s responsibility to remove the stigma in the VET sector. It is a responsibility for everyone. We all must understand the role it plays in our national development, we do not want to stratify society, we must understand the reliance between one sector of the education system with another,” said Pop.
The integration of subjects from general education into the VET curriculum has been dangerously overlooked to the detriment of almost alienating VET from conventional education such that coupled with its weak teaching capacity, the sector has failed to earn considerable respect, confided Associate Professor at Oswego State University of New York, Benjamin Ogwo.
“In order to make VET respectable and increase its status in society, there is a need to integrate communication skills, science and knowledge in general from the general education into VET, so that people will appreciate that VET is not for people who ca not do well. Government has overlooked this because somehow there seems to be a dichotomy, where there is VET on one side and general education on the other, government should henceforth draw a curriculum that reflects the reality of everyday life,” said the professor.
London University Professor, Moses Oketch, exhorted that instead of marginalizing the VET sector and informal sector African governments had a noble mandate to capitalize on the economic growth recorded over the past decade to grow strong VET institutions.
“The informal sector and VET has been ignored by governments and this is a double tragedy. We need to build on the positive economic growth registered over the past decade by training the young generation which constitute a bigger part of our population so that they can reap from this positive growth,” he said.
Meanwhile the National Training Authority is taking colossal strides to improve the Namibian VET sector from its current form which has drawn a lot of criticism from industry players and students at large who still shun it as a reserve for failures, a thinking NTA is trying hard to clamp down on.