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Opinion - Education reform: Catalyst for Namibian mineral resources

2022-11-11  Josef Kefas Sheehama

Opinion - Education reform: Catalyst for Namibian mineral resources

An education without technology does not prepare Namibians with the skills that the world requires. Technology should be omnipresent in education. It is the demand for change that propels education systems to produce a country’s innovators, inventors, creators, problem solvers, entrepreneurs, global citizens, change makers and critical thinkers.

Education is a catalyst for development. I asked myself a question that has troubled me, where are we going as a country if we always importing skills and knowledge? Skills can be learnt too. Economic minerals like gold, lithium, platinum and diamond, among others, have always been managed by foreigners. Mineral resources are the key material basis for socioeconomic development. Statistical results show that more than 95% of the energy used by mankind, 80% of industrial raw materials and 70% of raw materials for agricultural production are from mineral resources.

A lack of skills is one of the binding constraints to growth and development in the mining industry. A handful of Namibians who are skilful in minerals are taking advantage of the country’s resources. It is, therefore, of vital importance that Namibian restructure the economy so that its wealth is shared by all people, black and white, to ensure that everybody enjoys a decent and rising standard of living. The call for economic emancipation must be embraced by all of us to defuse the ticking time bomb.

Economic freedom and prosperity require a culture of learning and teaching. They require an educational system directed to the full development of the human personality. The deepening moral degeneration in our country highlights the fact that our educational system must address both, the spiritual and material aspects of the human personality.

The latest development has however attracted the attention of Namibians who are worried about the handling of the country’s resources. New information about how the lithium mine was established points to many flaws in the licensing process, from the awarding of exploration. Educated people are aware of the socio-economic scenario of the country and can help in the progress of the country. If a country wants to ensure that there are equal opportunities for everyone regardless of race, gender or social class, equal access to education is necessary.

We need our people to acquire technical know-how in mining to help safeguard the minerals. A simple truth in life is that no one is ever born with the right ideas and techniques for dealing and relating with others, meaning, no one was born with skills. Such specific skill is always developed. That is why investing in skills is so vital to a country’s economic growth and competitiveness. In particular, education systems must be oriented towards producing youth who have both strong foundational skills as well as specific skills for jobs.

Therefore, as long as we don’t have the technology and technology transfer and value addition to our minerals, then foreign nationals will come and extract our minerals as raw. Namibia will always buy these products at a high price as we continue to struggle to add value to our minerals. The foreigners are taking advantage of this confusion and have been milking the country’s wealth for nothing.


Lack of skills hinders development

The Minerals Policy of Namibia’s vision “is to achieve a high level of responsible development of national resources in which Namibia becomes a significant producer of mineral products while ensuring maximum sustainable contribution to the socio-economic development of the country”.

The Namibian Constitution, Article 1” (2) All power shall vest in the people of Namibia who shall exercise their sovereignty through the democratic institutions of the State”. Article 100, Sovereign Ownership of Natural Resources “Land, water and natural resource below and above the surface of the land and in the continental shelf and within the territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone of Namibia shall belong to the State if they are not otherwise lawfully owned”.

Therefore, the people need to benefit from Namibia’s natural resources. We need to respect the laws of the country. The mining has procedures, which must be followed. Lawlessness in the mining sector cannot be condoned. Namibia needs a natural resource reform where we have the government and the citizens agreeing on how best to govern our minerals. Future generations will also need to account for these resources that we are giving away for nothing. Huge inequalities highlight the need to incorporate equity criteria and the prioritisation of vulnerable populations. Inequality is not inevitable. It is a policy choice.

To build more comprehensive education systems that will allow dealing with crises such as this one, it is also essential to modernise the collection and analysis of information and to make these systems more efficient. The reform process is expected to produce a flexible curriculum that allows for complementary alternative pathways, which provide students with choices of specialisation and interest.

Namibia needs to pull out of this exploitation and strategically reposition itself to negotiate its minerals and be at the centre of the boom that will be created by Namibia’s demand for manufactured and industrial products. We cannot give away our resources. The next generation will condemn us for our collective failures. The World Bank projected that sub-Saharan Africa’s growth will slow in 2025 amid falling commodity prices, a realisation that has already been felt across the continent.

The whole world is moving towards lithium. It is a transition mineral used for the movement to renewable energy. So, it’s sad that we don’t have a strong policy document on lithium. And when you look at the informal manner in which people are extracting the mineral, it means there is going to be an environmental catastrophe. Namibia has the world’s richest mineral deposits. To add value requires the refining and processing of the mineral resources locally before exporting them abroad. The government’s top priority should be achieving inclusive economic participation, entrepreneurship, increased job opportunities, economic growth and development, improved standard of living and poverty alleviation.   The government must ensure that existing infrastructure planning mechanisms and programmes properly consider infrastructure requirements for mineral beneficiation and the business sector have to assist in infrastructure development to facilitate local beneficiation and embrace energy efficiency.

Over and above, the government should create a conducive environment for mining companies and other stakeholders to invest in research, learning, innovation and development. By doing this, undoubtedly poverty, inequality and unemployment rate shall be history in Namibia.

To this end, the reform of the education system will require additional financial resources and better distribution. The large inequalities highlight the need to include criteria of equity and prioritisation of vulnerable populations. In this sense, education financing as well as fair and efficient resource allocation are key to responding to this crisis and guaranteeing the right to quality education for everyone.

Therefore, undeniably, with quality education, we can safeguard our minerals. I also believe in the formation of a permanent body of knowledgeable people tasked with gathering information on the status of minerals and an exploitation strategy.

2022-11-11  Josef Kefas Sheehama

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