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Science, techÔÇÖs way forward

by Jemima Beukes



Investing in science and technology is essential if Namibia is serious about becoming a knowledge-based economy, notes vice rector of Academic Affairs and Research at the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN),  Dr Andrew Niikondo.
Speaking at the official opening of the Science and Technology Week hosted by PoN, Niikondo urged University of Namibia and the former to take the lead in identifying the challenges pupils experience at school.
“The responsibility of the Government through the Ministry of Education, the Unam and the PoN is to ensure that Namibian children are prepared to lead our country in the 21st Century and compete in the global marketplace,” Niikondo said adding this objective, however, is only achievable through providing our children an education that includes a solid foundation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
He further urged students to take up engineering studies because it is an important aspect in the  process of sustainable development.
“Energy is central to sustainable development and poverty reduction efforts. It affects all aspects of development ranging from social, economic and environmental well being, including livelihoods, access to water, agricultural productivity, health, education and all social-related issues,” said Niikondo.
The lack of highly skilled professionals in science and technology and engineering fields is what holds Namibia and the rest of Africa from becoming industrialised and being producers as put by Alfred van Kent, director of Research, Science and Technology in the Ministry of Education.
According to Niikondo, Namibia can only do good by investing in science and technology.
“Investing in science, technology and engineering would be a smart decision in order to build a basis for our ongoing economic prosperity for our environmental quality and for our quality of life,” he said.
He further said despite the amount of natural wealth Africa can brag about, without engineers, the continent will continue to lag behind.
“Namdeb, for example, accounts for an average of 1.6 million carats of diamonds per annum, which makes Namibia number six in the largest diamond producers list in the world but no diamond rings are made in Namibia so far, yet we buy these products at exorbitant prices. This is because our science, technology and engineering expertise are not up to standard.
“Literature also tells us that about 95% of mobile phones contain metals mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and yet no cell phone has ever been made in DRC. And to make matters worse, the country is among the poorest in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Science, technology and engineering are the very ingredients that differentiate Africa from the developed countries.
“Investing in these areas are what would make the difference. We have the natural wealth but we urgently need skills to transform these wealth,” said van Kent, adding that this is the way to realise Vision 2030 goals to have Namibia become industrialised.