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Unam development crippled by skills shortage

by Jemima Beukes


The University of Namibia does not have enough qualified doctorate supervisors.
Reiterating the shortage of qualified staff, Unam vice chancelor, Lazarus Hangula when speaking at the institution’s latest graduation in the capital,said Unam is challenged when it comes to improving the foundations of education in Namibia, which would secure the capacity to ensure a high quality of education given from the start.
“Hiring and retaining of staff, especially highly qualified in the fields of science and technology as well as medicine, remains another challenge,” he said adding that in an effort to improve the skills of its staff, Unam has long put in place a programme to train lecturers to become educators, particularly because Unam has a number of untrained lecturers and professors.
In most cases, the universirty has had to make do with expartriate labourers in some of the faculties where local skills are deemed unhelpful.
According to the university’s latest statistics, only one student in her late 40s graduated with a doctoral degree while not more than 30 masters students managed to meet the bar this year.
The doctoral student graduated from the school of nursing, which according to Unam’s director of communications, Edwin Tjiramba, is its longest existing faculty.
Tjiramba says this is the only faculty that almost always has professors with suitable skills to supervise students.
“This faculty is the oldest at the university and the capacity is there. We could only offer doctorate programmes if we had the professors to supervise students i.e. if there is someone with a higher degree to supervise them,” he says, adding that essentially, every faculty can offer doctorate programmes provided that a qualified staff is available.
Furthermore, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, being the guest of honour, encouraged the Unam staff to recommit itself to working hard in order to fulfil its mandate.
“We would like to see the university increase the number of students and diversify its academic programmes in order to train more professionals here at home, as it is now done in the fields of engineering and medicine,” said Pohamba.
According to the Minister of Education, David Namwandi, the ministry is working around the clock to address the country skills shortage.
“We have noted, with great concern, that only one student has obtained a PhD from Unam this year. We are not happy with the level at which Namibian people obtain higher qualifications, we cannot force them but we really want Nambians to study harder,” said Namwandi.
He further stated that a university is a universal institution that cannot do without exptriates but they must transfer skills.
“Expatriates must really make sure they transfer skills and knowledge to Namibian people, they cannot just sit back and do nothing.
Meanwhile, 60% of the 2696 graduates are women, which include the chancellor’s medalist and the only doctoral student. Of them all, graduates not more than 20 managed to make a cum laude; a situation utterly bemoaned by the ministry.