|The Courier No. 136 - Nov-Dec 1992 - Dossier Humanitarian Aid Country Reports Sao Tomé-Principe-Senegal (European Community, 1992)|
by Claudy VOUH
'People are rightly demanding education for their children and for themselves. They are eager for places in literacy groups, but this is not the only answer.' Justin Ellis, who is Under-Secretary for Non-Formal Education in the Namibian Ministry of Education and Culture, emphasises the need for a comprehensive approach. Policy-makers, trainers and community activists who promote nonformal and adult education are facing staggering problems.
When Namibia won its independence in 1990, following 22 years of war against the South African regime, only 1% of black adults had completed secondary school. Today, illiteracy runs at over 65 % of the black adult population, and women are particularly affected. Reform of the basic (formal) education system seeks to redress the imbalances inherited from the former regime. Under South African rules, education was only compulsory for whites. It is now obligatory for all children up to the age of 16. Adult education is also receiving a lot of attention and new Colleges of Adult Education will open their doors at the start of the next academic year.
It is no easy task to promote education (either formal or non-formal) in a country which is still experiencing de facto economic and social apartheid. Over 70% of the GDP is controlled by the 5% white population whereas the rest of Namibia's one and a half million people - nearly half of whom live in the communal lands of Ovamboland in the north of the country - earn a pittance as farm workers, communal farmers or small traders. Youngsters - mainly males - roam the streets of the capital, Windhoek, selling newspapers, guiding cars into parking spaces or simply sitting at crossroads hoping to be picked up for a day's casual work. A recent survey found that one third of the 3000 young 'street sitters' never find jobs, while 37% of those who do earn only five rend (ECU 1.25) or less per week. At present, it is estimated that more than half of the 550000 economically-active Namibians are unemployed, or underemployed. Young people and women are the worst off. With fewer than 4000 jobs created each year for the 16 500 new entrants into the labour market, the Government has made the promotion of self-employment schemes and of alternative employment a priority.
The multi-faceted nature and novelty of local employment initiatives has created some confusion over the precise meaning of terms such as 'micro-projects', 'small-scale enterprises' and 'income-generating projects'. Areas of responsibility are still to be clearly assigned. A task force is envisaged to coordinate the work of the various Ministries and of the increasing number of Namibian and international NGOs operating at the grass roots.
Within the Ministry of Education and Culture, responsibility for overseeing the implementation of adult skills training lies with the Directorate for Adult Skills and Non-Formal Education. It is a new Directorate which has to operate flexibly in order to meet the many and varied demands for 'adult education' end make the link between adults' literacy/numeracy needs and skills training. The Directorate aims to act as a facilitator between the local groups requesting help and the network of NGOs, ministries and international donors willing and able to assist them.
There are already many local groups working to regenerate their areas and create income-earning opportunities. In some regions, however, political and ethnic divisions hamper the organisation of communities. Basic needs such as food production and housing are top priorities across the country. The production of clothes and craft objects is prevalent amongst women's groups.
Assessing needs and equipping people with the technical and managerial skills they require to run such projects is the challenge faced by the Directorate for Adult Skills and its partners. Recent regional visits to local groups have identified the need to train community and literacy organisers working at the grassroots in participatory development, gender issues, sustainability, marketing and access to credit. More practical requirements, such as proposal writing or book-keeping come high on the communities' agendas as do needs for premises, basic equipment and raw materials. The production of training 'tools' has begun in the Directorate and collaboration with other partners should result in more elaborate 'tools' being designed in the future. Some success has been achieved in using the national press as a vehicle for educational materials focusing on the theme of self-employment.
The Directorate's strategy is largely inspired by the 'Skills Development for Self-Reliance' (SDSR) scheme which has been developed and implemented by the ILO with sponsorship from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) in several countries of East Africa. It is hoped that SIDA will also sponsor the scheme in Namibia. SDSR focuses on participatory development methods and aims to work with local communities towards identification of market needs and self-assessment of people's skills and-training requirements. Follow-up and monitoring are essential parts of the process as is the emphasis on bona fide income generation.
However, the SDSR 'tools' developed in East Africa will clearly require adjustment to suit the Namibian situation. With inherited infrastructures designed to hamper self-reliance, a land surface equivalent to France and the UK put together and a population of less than two million, Namibia has its own very specific problems. In these circumstances, it cannot afford to depend solely on 'ready-made' recipes from abroad.