Disjunct between education and labour
Speaking at a public lecture on higher education and the labour market held in Windhoek on 17 October where he was a keynote presenter, du Pre stated that although the national literacy rate is estimated to be around 85%, the number of Namibians who are functionally literate and have the skills needed by the market, is significantly lower. He said that Namibia needs graduates in fields such as mining and agriculture because these are the fields that the economy is heavily dependent on.
Du Pre said knowledge creation and the application of that knowledge is central to economic growth for any country, adding that Africa is left out from the knowledge sharing economy. He acknowledge the fact that higher education institutions will have to undertake a major paradigm shift to provide the human resources to exploit economic opportunities but the problem of skills however does not merely lie with higher education institutions. Equally critical are the labour market requirements and government intervention.
“The industry needs to develop a symbiotic relationship with the higher education sector and get more involved and provide more opportunities for employment. Government’s role is to provide a legislative, financial and facilitative environment,” du Pre stressed. He said that the mismatch between what the labour market requires and the kind of graduates higher education provides is mainly because most African higher education institutions cling on the type of higher education influenced by colonial times.
Currently there are three higher education institutions which according to du Pre all differ in their focus. “Traditionally, universities did not educate for the world of work, it was “education for the sake of education” and ‘research for the sake of research’. With the advances in technology and the need for high level research, advanced training, innovation and technological transfers, a new breed of higher education institutions emerged in the last few decades,” he said.
“The institutions are advised on changes in production processes, manufacturing methods, management practices and new ways of networking. The institutions then make adjustments to the curriculum to ensure courses remain relevant and abreast of contemporary movements in all the fields of study offered, thus making graduates more employable,” said du Pre.