Investment in higher education brings economic prosperity
OpEd by Dr Eino Mvula, Chief Operating Officer of the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund
Around the world we celebrate our diversity, our different cultures, and varying opinions. One thing we all seem to have as our common trait is the desire, almost an instinct, that drives us to ensure that our children have better lives than we do: – more opportunities, better food, better medical care and definitely if it were not available, access to better education, starting at primary school level.
This requires hard work not only on the part of the parents and the community, but ultimately also a nation’s government, as all children should have access to high quality, high level education regardless of their background.
Funding education is important. Instinctively we all understand this. However clichéd it may sound, we know that the future generations will carry on and build on what we have achieved. However, when we look around the globe, at our neighbouring countries or even within Namibia, it leaves us scratching our heads. There’s talk of educational cuts in different parts of the world, and rarely do we see countries increasing their spending on education. Namibia, which has been forced to tighten its belt and make difficult decisions when it comes to budget cuts does not seem to escape the scourge of decreased spending on education.
Without education spending and investment, and let’s be honest it is the soundest investment to make, a country can not hope to prosper. Children need access to good teachers, good facilities and a path leading all the way from primary school to as far as their minds can and will take them. In this journey, access to financial resources should not be a constraint.
This is easier said than done. There needs to be a proper mechanism in place. What we see around the world is that countries have financial aid options for students pursuing post-secondary education, in the form of scholarships, bursaries, grants and loans. A post-secondary education has become increasingly vital to participate and succeed in the modern economy.
Without proper investment, education levels will stagnate and eventually decline. In order to ensure a return on investment, a system needs to be in place that administers and distributes the funds that a government makes available for education. This system must ensure that money gets to the right institutions and is spent on the relevant studies and most deserving students. Such as system also needs to have the administrative checks and balances in place to handle and facilitate the applications for financial assistance of potential students. Student financial aid systems need to ensure that more students can afford and attend higher education.
Whichever format of student financial assistance a country chooses, choose they must as a lack of funding for education in any form by a government will lead to a severe economic decline. Perhaps not in the short term, but certainly in the medium and long term. No matter how prosperous a country may be, or whatever their political system is, investment in education is imperative.
Financial assistance for students pursing higher education is common throughout the world. Almost all developed countries, half of all African countries, one in three Latin American countries and about one in six Asian countries including China, have financial assistance programmes for students pursuing higher education. Whether it is the National Student Financial Aid Scheme of South Africa, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada or even Nepal, all have student financial assistance in place.
Similarly, the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) is strategically placed and with the financial commitment from the government, it will make a meaningful contribution to achieve the bold and ambitious educational targets that Namibia has set for. This is our mandate as an organization which we are keen to fulfill and we will continue to be part of the investment in education for the Land of Brave.
About the NSFAF
The mandate of the NSFAF in terms of Act 26 of 2000 is to provide financial assistance in the form of loans or grants to eligible students at approved institutions of higher learning and to recover money from beneficiaries upon completion of their studies. Dr Emvula can be contacted at Eino.Mvula@nsfaf.na