By Hilya Nghiwete
NAMIBIA, like many other African countries, has a young population.
It’s a population that has their whole lives ahead of them, and their heads full of hopes, dreams and desires.
Education has always been the catalyst for success.
Our institutions like University of Namibia, the Namibia University of Science and Technology and the International University of Management provide our youth with tertiary education, as do the country’s vocational centres. As economic realities start to bite, and South Africa gives the Namibian economy reasons to be worried, it is important to be competitive at all levels and in every sector.
This means that our students also have to be the best of the best; not just locally, but internationally.
We need to stimulate, motivate and educate our students to be best; full stop! This means we need to get them to a level where they will be accepted at prestigious universities around the world.
There is lots of talk of the African Diaspora, globally, and we know that South Africans, Kenyans and Nigerians can be found at every Ivy League university, as well as European, British and Asian institutions. We Namibians need to be represented at Harvard, MIT and Cambridge, and not just at the University of Stellenbosch or UCT. This requires long-term planning and a truly Harambee approach to education. We have recently seen a group of students from MIT visiting our Head of State. In the not distant future, we want to see a group of Namibians studying at all of the Ivy League universities, paying a courtesy visit to our Head of State. Or even have President Dr Geingob visit Namibian students at an Ivy League university.
Top talent needs to be identified at an early age and nurtured. No longer should we see a Namibian graduating from Princeton University is a unique event.
This must occur more often. While the saying used to be that “it takes a village to raise a child”, we should now get into the mindset that it takes a nation to educate a child, and produce globally competitive graduates.
Educational and financial resources need to be targeted to specific programmes and students, so that they can thrive and prosper, and help increase the Namibian Diaspora of students globally, and academically.
As the Chief Executive Officer of the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF), education is close to my heart, and it pains me to see when graduates are not able to fulfil their potential and get the jobs and careers they desire and deserve, after all the hard work they have put in.
However, there is a whole world out there, and we cannot only look and operate within our own borders anymore. Namibia plans to be a knowledge-based society by 2030, and our young talented pupils and students will be the standard-bearers of this vision. As mentioned, this is where we need a Harambee approach to education, and this means that we cannot just leave it to a specific ministry to achieve this new vision.
Business, schools, government (local, regional and national), NGOs, private citizens and every other stakeholder, including friends and families, need to be part of this goal.
Namibia and Namibians needs to focus on becoming a force to be reckoned with internationally, and on being represented at the world’s major universities. Grooming and honing our talented youth is the first step.
* Hilya Nghiwete is the Chief Executive Officer the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF), whose mandate is to provide financial assistance, in the form of loans and grants to eligible students at approved institutions of higher learning, and to recover monies from beneficiaries, upon completion of their studies.
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