Where are the returns for the billions spent on education?
By Cor Beuke of Beuke and Associates consultancy
In a time when our economy is trying its best to recover from recession, we continue to think short term, which it must be stated is one of the reasons that we are currently facing the economic problems that we are.
Whether my continued advocacy for increased focus on educating our youth fell on the proverbial “death ears” or not, it seems as if there is either a massive problem when it comes to managing government spending or we are neglecting our constitutional duty to the most vulnerable part of our society, namely our children.
Our country’s official focus is on reducing poverty and increasing prosperity for all our citizens. We spend billions on infrastructure and different projects, which I must admit will have a positive impact in some industries, but we forget the simplest of truths when it comes to sustainable economic growth… Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat forever!
The only way that we can empower the poorest in our society is to educate our youth and provide the future generation with the necessary tools that it needs to generate income. Not everyone needs to go to university or work for a multinational corporation someday, but everyone needs to be able to read, write, count and most importantly be able to dream and envision their future.
Namibia’s spending on education, as a percentage of GDP is one of the highest in Africa but we do not seem to be reaping the results. This is either due to the quality of our educational system or due to the mismanagement of funds allocated to education. This is a warning sign that we can not ignore. If this is left unchecked, the negative impact will be felt for generations to come.
As a nation we struggled long and hard for our freedom and thousands of lives were lost in the process. As a young democracy we started off with a “bang” but we either failed to plan or failed to implement our strategies for the future. We are now twenty seven years down the road and we have achieved much success as a nation but I fear that this was mostly due to us picking the low hanging fruits, which is not a problem if it is done purposefully as part of a long term strategy, but this was not the case. Everyone was “drunk” on the short term success and prosperity.
The result is however that we are now waking up to the reality of our situation and for the first time we are looking at things with a “sober” mind and we are scared of what we see. Our current government was not dealt a great hand when it took over and inherited the bulk of the current challenges and they have done fairly well, but we are still not thinking long term. We are frantically scurrying around to put out economic fires and are so entrenched in the short and medium term problems that we forget to put in place systems to ensure that we are not faced with the same problems again in the future.
Drastic action needs to be taken to improve the education of our youth. We need to give our schools everything they need to provide our children with a good education and this must be done at all costs. Failure to do so is not an option as it will continue to increase poverty, inequality, economic decline and frankly, will result in economic disaster within our generation. As painful as it might be… we should bite the proverbial bullet now, to ensure that our nation survives.
About the author Cor Beuke
Cor Beuke is an Industrial Relations consultant and legal advisor. Since 2007 to date, he has served on several committees or councils in a labour advisory capacity. He is a board member of the Namibia Training Authority. He holds degrees in commerce and in law and a Masters in International Economic Law. His observations and opinions are based on his own work-related experience.