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Is Government shooting itself on the foot?

by Elvis Mboya


The vocational training sector in the country is still getting the short end of the stick when it comes to Government funding despite the Ministry of Education continuously stressing its importance in job-creation.
Since Independence in 1990, past education ministers; Nahas Angula, John Mutorwa and Nangolo Mbumba realised that technical and vocational training institutions play a significant role in the economic development of a nation.
The current education captains; Minister Dr Abraham Iyambo and his deputy, Dr David Namwandi continue to echo the same sentiments that the attainment of Vision 2030 is hinged on; high level technical and vocational skills.
In his budget motivation speech at the National Assembly last week, Dr Namwandi passionately pleaded with fellow parliamentarians to support his ministry’s allocation to the vocational training sector.
However, this year’s VTC allocation of funds was very meagre and in stark contrast to allocations made to tertiary institutions such as the University of Namibia (Unam) and the Polytechnic of Namibia (Poly).
 In the current financial year, the ministry allocated the vocational training sector N$270m out of the N$9b the whole ministry received.
In the same budget, Unam and Poly received a combined N$950m; an amount three-fold of that allocated to vocational training institutions like Valombola, Zambezi, Rundu, Okakarara and Windhoek.
Dr Namwandi said that the line of thinking should negate any belief or myth that technical and vocational education is inferior to university education, saying that this mentality is counterproductive and should thus be discarded.
Said the deputy minister: “It is my plea that this august house supports me in my attempt to ensure that there is a paradigm shift and mind-set of all our people to embrace technicians from our technical and vocational institutions and consider them as equal partners to their counterparts.
“Vocational education and training, no doubt, is the foundation for economic development and industrialised society, in that, this sector equips nationals with skills enabling them to create wealth and work for themselves and others.”
The past and present ministers of education have been reading from the same page, noting that the VTCs reduce unemployment and strengthen a country’s balance of trade and payment.  
In their public oratories, they said that one cannot go wrong in investing heavily in vocational education, as history has proven that developed countries are what they are because of investing heavily in technical and vocational training.
Dr Namwandi reaffirmed that the country should build a vibrant and national demand-driven technical education system, capable of producing well-equipped technicians who would be ready to save this nation from a catastrophic situation of unacceptable rates of unemployment.
However, the oratory has since not been backed by action. Technical and vocational training institutions continue to receive meager fund allocations compared to tertiary institutions; Unam and Poly.
This has been regarded in some sections of society as Government’s inconsistency, if not indecisiveness in what it wants to achieve.
With an unemployment rate of 51%, the vocational training sector, hailed as a job-creation machine, has evidently ben sidelined in terms of resources compared to Unam and Poly graduates who heavily rely on Government and the private sector for employment.
Though the ministry increased the allocation to vocational training by 4.4%, the current allocation stands at N$270 319 000 compared to N$251 776 000 allocated in the last financial year.
The allocation will benefit 8 858 trainees at the country’s five VTCs.
The enrolment represents 10.7% increase from the previous year’s enrolment.
Unam received N$ 723 487 000, with N$ 570 487 000 meant for operational programmes and N$153 000 000 for capital projects, while Poly was allocated N$229 216 000 with N$163 216 000 meant for operational programmes and N$66 000 000 for capital projects.
Strained by high school dropouts, the Government is evidently shooting itself on the foot by heavily funding higher institutions of learning, while paying less attention to direct job-creators; vocational centers.