Higher education review in offingBy: CATHERINE SASMAN
IF current trends in tertiary education continue, Namibia will have a shortage of semi-skilled labour and unemployment among higher education graduates in all sectors by 2030, suggests a preliminary review of higher education demand.
An Kitzinger, a consultant from Higher Education Management Africa, said the current structure of tertiary education in Namibia has an “over focus” on general vocational training and degree courses at the expense of lower vocational training levels, below apprenticeship levels.
She said this at a workshop in Windhoek yesterday which is doing a comprehensive and holistic review of the entire higher education system in the country in relation to its contribution to the achievement of Vision 2030.
This review process was embarked upon after the Polytechnic of Namibia approached Cabinet with a request to change the status of the institution to that of a university.
An interrogation into the matter in June found that there are concerns about the poor access to higher education institutions and a gap in further education and training.
Considerations are now for the expansion of the college system, and to prioritise the decentralisation of tertiary education centres and strengthen distance learning.
Education Minister Abraham Iyambo said although the bulk of financial resources go into primary and secondary education, Government remains committed to an effective and competitive higher education.
Vision 2030 projects that 43 000 extra jobs will be created per year, 61 percent of which are semi-skilled jobs and 39 per cent skilled jobs.
A medium-term projection is that between 9 000 and 10 000 additional jobs must be created, of which 69 percent are semi-skilled jobs. But it is then expected that 14 000 graduates must be churned out.
Vision 2030 envisages a seven percent growth rate in employment, but for the next 23 years, only a 4,6 percent growth is foreseen.
Kitzinger said the current enrolment figures at higher education institutions are out of kilter when plotted against Vision 2030.
Vision 2030 envisages a seven percent growth rate in employment, but for the years leading up to 2030, only 4,6 percent growth is envisaged, while employment in the formal economy has decreased by two percent per year which resulted in an increase in graduate unemployment.
“There is a noise of skills shortage, but if there is a low absorption of skilled employment, where is the skills shortage?” she queried.
She said quite a number of sectors have shed skilled and semi-skilled labour, like the health and education sectors which complain that they need skilled labour.
The primary sector in the Namibian economy remains dominant at 19 percent. The secondary sector constitutes 18 percent, and the tertiary sector – primarily public service labour – is 64 percent.
Unskilled and semi-skilled labour form the largest part of the labour force at 23 and 54 percent respectively. Skilled labour makes up 23 percent.
The enrolment rate at tertiary institutions has increased by 11,2 percent. In 2011, there were 35 000 enrolments, which Kitzinger said are still very low when compared to the 70 percent enrolment in developed countries.
More than half of the enrolments are directly from school, and 95 percent from public schools. Twenty percent of Namibian students are enrolled abroad, of whom more than 90 percent study in South Africa.
The study found that 10 percent of the enrolments in the country are from students who do not have the required entry-level qualifications, but who have nonetheless found their way into the system.
Most of the enrolments are from Khomas, followed by Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana, and Oshikoto. The lowest enrolments are from the Kunene Region.
Poorer regions are also unrepresented in the enrolment figures, but it was similarly found that richer regions like Erongo and Hardap are also under-represented in the enrolment figures, presumably because these students study abroad.
There is an over-representation of students from Oshana who do not have qualifying marks, but yet are over-represented in higher education.
Conversely, students from the Karas Region with qualifying marks are under-represented.
Most of the students enrolled study social sciences, business and education.