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Free education the way forward


by Jemima Beukes
Education

 

 

The cost of education in Namibia is very high. Fifty percent of Namibians earns less than a N$50 income a day. This means that N$480 monthly income per household of which 90% goes to food. How can you expect them to afford education?

Delegates from the education sector in conjuction with donor representives among them the Millenium Challenge Account  (MCA), held a three day Educational and Training Sector Inprovement Programme (ETSIP) annual review meeting at Heja lodge last week, to discuss barriers and challenges hindering quality education and progress of the program.
One of the main points highlighted in the discussions was about schools obligating parents to contribute towards the School Development Fund  (SDF), while education is supposed to be free.
Under Secreteray of Formal Education in the Ministry of Education, Charles Kabajani, said that SDF is a root cause of why so many children are not attending school, and that it should be done away with.
“SDF keeps so many children from attending school. It must be done away with in one way or another. This fund is the scape-goat that keeps so many children from attending school as parents who cannot pay for the fund eventually keep their children home. Alternative ways must be implemented  to generate funds for the development of schools,” Kabajani said.
 He further suggests that an analysis must be carried out to establish which schools are the most needy and that Government should support them.
He is concerned that orphans have no one to pay for them so they will never have a chance to get an education.
International University Management (IUM), Professor Monish Gunawardana (Phd), conceded that the cost of education is outrageously high, often coercing people into shackles of poverty.
He further noted that Namibia is more than capable of providing free education throughout primary and secondary education, because  his home country, Sri-Lanka, is an island and has a population of 20 million people but education is free up to Phd level.
“The cost of education in Namibia is very high. Fifty percent of Namibians earns less than a N$50 income a day. This means that N$480 monthly income per household of which 90% goes to food. How can you expect them to afford education?” he questioned.
Gunawardana suggests that free education motivates learning, adding that if students  are given free education, they will be encouraged to study more, which in essence, will increase the capacity of the nation and subsequently have a positive impact on the economy.
“If teachers are not motivated to certify themselves within their profession, the quality of education will be affected adversely,” said  US based Education Advisor of the Millenium Challenge Corporation, Dr. Joseph Cohen.
Cohen added that there is a serious need for a career map within the Education Ministry in order to encourage development of the educational workforce which would result in  teachers regaining respect for their profession and feeling good about themselves. This, he notes, would motivate them to deliver quality education.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a U.S. Government corporation whose mission is to provide assistance that will support economic growth and poverty reduction in carefully selected countries that demonstrate a commitment to just and democratic governance, economic freedom and investments in their citizenry.
The MCC donated US$145m to Namibia  in 2008 for education related projects which will stretch over a five-year period.
Fifty percent of these funds have been deployed for the renovation and upgrading of infrastructure in nine regions.