The educational and cultural sectors of developing countries often face multiple structural, organisational and financial challenges, especially as their budget allocation is usually a very small percentage of the GDP compared to other sectors. To understand how Namibia is progressing across these sectors, a study visit was undertaken by five Members of the Committee and the Committee Clerk.
The Namibian context
According to Unicef, 23.6% of Namibia’s GDP was allocated to education, arts and culture in 2012/13. This figure is expected to reach 25.3% in 2018/19. The education budget in Namibia represented 10.6% of the country’s GDP in 2015, with a focus on pre-primary, primary and secondary education as they receive an average of between 74% and 79.3% of the entire education budget. The remainder goes to higher education, training and innovation.
Despite this grand budget, education in Namibia is still facing challenges, and access to early childhood development services and pre-primary education remains limited. Drop-out and repeater rates also remain high. According to statistics for 2016, 19.8% of the learners enrolled in Grade 1 were repeaters.
The budget for higher education is relatively lower than for basic education. This has led to a lack of faculties and large class sizes, which affect the quality of education. In addition, there is not a strong focus on cultural education.
Although Namibia recently acknowledged the remarkable role that culture can play in the development of the country, the cultural sector itself needs more attention from National Government. As an illustration, there is a low level of local and traditional production, which has resulted in a low percentage of cultural employment and even a neglect of cultural heritage.
Tourism is one of Namibia’s most important industries. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council Report 2017, the total contribution of the tourism sector to the Namibian GDP is 13.8%. Tourism has contributed both directly and indirectly to the creation of 98 000 jobs. Furthermore, investment in the tourism sector in 2017 represented 12% of total investment. Namibia recorded more than 1.57 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2016, showing an increase of 3.6% from 2015.
Structure of the visit
The five-day visit was divided into two themes. One focused on working sessions with relevant authorities from public and private sectors, as well as field visits to some of the main institutions and sites in the country. The other included courtesy calls and consultative meetings with selected relevant authorities. This gave the Committee the opportunity to engage with various stakeholders in the educational, cultural and tourism sectors.
Session with the Namibian Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture
During the working session with the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, PAP Members enjoyed three presentations that highlighted various programmes, their progress and the challenges they face. These included:
- The Namibian School Feeding Programme. A total of 364 854 primary school learners benefit from this school feeding programme – and some of these rely on this as their one meal of the day. The scheme has improved retention of learners at schools, as well as their overall performance
- Inclusive education, which focuses on providing education for children with disabilities and special educational needs. Although Namibia has achieved good progress in developing legislation and policies to address the issues experienced by children with disabilities, there are still numerous challenges. These include: high levels of discrimination; a lack of disability knowledge and practical skills among teachers; a lack of disability-friendly infrastructure in schools; and a lack of technology
- Integration of information and communication technology (ICT) in education. The focus is on helping learners and teachers, but access to and the use of ICT in the school system remains low, with many schools not exposed to ICT at all. Major challenges for this programme include schools without electricity falling behind, and a lack of adequate ICT training opportunities for teachers
- The Integrated School Health Programme, which focuses on the health of Namibia’s children and youth to ensure better education outcomes, higher productivity and a good quality of life for all. The major challenges highlighted were the lack of financial resources to train more school personnel and to conduct ongoing monitoring and evaluation at school level, coupled with insufficient co-ordination between ministries to support the programme
- The Family Literacy Programme, which supports children’s educational progress through their parents, targeting families in disadvantaged communities
- The Friends of Education in Namibia Special Initiative, which advocates support for education, arts and culture from various stakeholders in their different forms and capacities
- The National Arts Extension Programme (NAEP), which was established to decentralise the arts in the regions. The NAEP facilitators have reached 4 000 learners through the exhibition of art, music, and the training of choirs
- The Heritage and Cultural Programme, which contributes to poverty reduction and employment creation through the creative economy and heritage sites, whereby an estimated 0.65% of the employed (29% male and 71% female) have cultural occupations.
Session with the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation
The PAP Members attended presentations by senior officials from Namibia’s Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation. A presentation on higher education revealed the main successes here are the establishment of tertiary education institutions (public and private) as well as quality assurance on higher education. For example, the development of an internationally benchmarked National Quality Assurance System and the registration of private higher education institutions.
Some of the challenges facing higher education include: a lack of a strategy for graduates’ employability; inequality in access; mismatch in supply and demand of skills; and poor quality and ineffectiveness of education and funding.
During a presentation on the state of science, technology and innovation within this sector, successes included the finalisation of legislative and regulatory frameworks and institutional capacity building. However, there are still various challenges, notably limited funding and research infrastructure, and a lack of expertise in the area of bioethics.
Session with the Namibian Tourism Board
The local tourism industry is regulated by the Namibian Tourism Board (NTB). During the working session with the NTB, these highlights were presented to PAP Members:
- An estimated 2 million people visited Namibia in 2017 compared with 1 million visitors in 2012
- Tourism remains one of the booming economic sectors in Namibia and as such, the National Government has prioritised tourism as one of the sectors that has the potential to reduce poverty, advance rural development and create jobs
- Namibia is increasingly acknowledged as a tourist destination, known for its outstanding conservation efforts, stunning landscapes, wildlife, safety, security and cultural diversity
- There are many challenges facing the sector, such as the illegal hunting of wildlife and trade in wildlife products, among others.
The Members acknowledged that air connectivity and visa requirements are the main challenges to tourism promotion in Namibia and other African countries. Therefore, the Committee strongly believed that this issue should be addressed at national, regional and continental levels.
The PAP Members also noted the flagship projects being implemented by Nepad to improve connectivity in Africa. However, the rate of implementation is slow, which is a concern for the economic and tourism sectors throughout Africa.
The Committee on Education undertook field visits to main cultural sites in Namibia. These included the Independence Memorial Museum and the Heroes’ Acre, which afforded visitors an opportunity to appreciate the sacrifices made by all Namibian people in their struggle for freedom, culminating in the country’s independence in 1994. The Committee also visited the city of Swakopmund, where they held a brief working session with Namport.
Following the series of bilateral meetings and working sessions, the Committee agreed on key findings:
- The highest budget allocation in Namibia went to education and health
- The Namibian Government has made sincere efforts to increase access to education for all Namibians and to improve the quality of education
- The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture is responsible for maintaining national arts, heritage and cultural programmes in the country. Progress made in this regard through the NAEP and the Heritage and Cultural Programme was noted. However, there is still more to achieve
- In Namibia, women have senior leadership positions in the education sector. As the Minister of Education said: ‘Education in Namibia is left in the care of mothers.’ This was met with approval by the PAP Committee, which felt other African countries should follow suit. Furthermore, the Members recommended a 50/50 share of appointments between women and men in ministerial positions in all African countries
- Namibia’s Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture appears to be overloaded with responsibility for three heavy sub-sectors, and the result is that one sector dominates the attention to the detriment of the others, especially art. Challenges facing the Directorate of Arts and Culture – such as little or no art curriculum in schools, scattered art-related efforts by the National Government, and a lack of research in the art sector – prove this point
- The Committee recognised the significant economic contribution of the tourism sector. While there are challenges – including air connectivity and scarcity of water – the country is doing very well in marketing itself as a tourism destination.