Civil society must become more active
Civil society organisations operating in the education sector have been challenged to exercise a mind shift in the way they conduct their business.
The organisations met this week under the banner of the Namibia Education Coalition of Society Organisations (NECCSO) to engage and challenge civil society to explore, discuss and arrive at a shared agreement on its role in accountability and governance in the education sector.
The workshop which ended on Tuesday this week, dealt with a number of topics including, ‘Enforcing the right to quality inclusive education’ and ‘Leveraging information for accountability in the education sector’.
The two-day workshop, which was held in collaboration with The Urban Trust of Namibia (UTN) and with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) brought together representatives of civil society organisations involved in education, school boards and students’ organisations from all over Namibia.
This initiative was organised with the conviction that unless there is strong stakeholder involvement and constructive engagement between Government and civil society, it will be impossible to address the many challenges facing the education sector such as access to schools, high dropout rate, high failure rates in Grades 10 and 12, teenage pregnancies and unaffordable school development funds among many others.
In order to achieve quality inclusive education for all, stakeholders need to critically consider strategies for strengthening governance and accountability.
John Nakuta, acting director of the Human Rights and Documentation Centre, Law Faculty at the University of Namibia urged the civil society organisations to be well positioned in holding the government accountable to its promises but also to advocate for education from a rights based perspective.
He said the many challenges facing the sector today would be solved if education was treated not only as an inalienable right, but also an indispensable tool to realise all other human rights.
“Education empowers people. It can enable marginalised adults and children to lift themselves out of poverty. It is the best financial investment any nation can make,” he said.
The education sector enjoys a huge chunk of the national budget although the returns do not match the investment. Deputy Education Minister, David Namwandi, noted when he opened the workshop that recent analysis had shown that despite the substantial investment in the education sector, Namibia’s system was not competitive enough in producing desirable learning outcomes and skills commensurate to the investment committed.
“Besides, children in countries that invest much less resources in their education sector than we are, achieve better learning outcomes,” Namwandi said adding “naturally we must ask ourselves, why?”
NECCSO was established in November last year, during consultations hosted by the NANGOF Education Sector Working Group and the African Network Campaign on Education for All (ABNCEFA).
Its objectives include developing a policy advocacy agenda for civil society for the education sector, undertake policy dialogue with the government, ensure civil society is effectively represented on various government institutions and statutory bodies dealing with education as well as mobilising resources and engaging constructively with the donor community to solicit additional resources and ensuring their allocation and utilisation.