Minister John Mutorwa on behalf of president Nangolo Mbumba at the unveiling of the Mao Zedong Statue in Windhoek

We are gathered here today to unveil a significant monument, the statue of chairman Mao Zedong, in Windhoek, an initiative brought to life by our esteemed ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, Elia Kaiyamo. 

This bronze statue, created by the renowned Chinese artist, Yuan Xikun, symbolises the enduring friendship and collaboration between Namibia and China.

Namibia and China share a long-standing tradition of friendship that dates back to the 1960s, when China provided political, moral, and material support to the Namibian people during the struggle for independence. China became the first country to establish diplomatic relations with Namibia, and this was done on 22 March 1990, one day after Namibia declared its national independence.

Since then, our countries have maintained healthy bilateral relations and achieved commendable results in various areas of cooperation such as politics, economy, trade, culture, education, infrastructure development, science and technology, public health, and information exchanges. Over the years, China has also helped Namibia in addressing our priorities as outlined in the National Development Plans.

Thirteen years ago, in 2011, we embarked on a journey to honour chairman Mao Zedong by constructing a school named after him. From its humble beginnings, with approximately only 200 Grade 8 pupils at the beginning, utilising the facilities of Jan Mohr Secondary School, Chairman Mao Zedong High School has transformed into a magnificent institution. 

With three floors and beautifully structured buildings, it now captivates all who behold it. This school, a generous donation from the People’s Republic of China, stands as a testament to the fruitful partnership between our nations. It is equipped with state-of-the-art sport facilities, including a stadium and a tartan track, and offers a wide range of extracurricular activities such as netball, soccer, basketball, debate, and a choir known for its melodious performances. 

Furthermore, I am reliably informed that the school boasts a large library with computers, providing pupils with the resources they need to excel in their studies.

Additionally, there are three science labs and a computer lab, ensuring that our students receive a comprehensive education in the sciences and technology. The modern, spacious hall and 23 classrooms, all equipped with projectors, remote-controlled monitors, and podiums, create an environment conducive to learning and growth. 

The school also has a music room, an art room, and offers Mandarin classes in collaboration with the Confucius Institute at the University of Namibia, and through that collaboration, seven of our pupils from Chairman Mao Zedong High School are currently studying in the People’s Republic of China, a testament to the strong educational ties between our countries.

The Chinese embassy has played a significant role in maintaining the school, as well as sponsoring scholarships for the top 10 performers annually, with an amount of N$20 000 (US$1 370).

At this juncture, allow me to inform you that in 2022, the People’s Republic of China provided grant aid of around N$343 million for the construction of education facilities at four rural schools, two schools in the Kavango West (Satotwa Combined School and Simanya Combined School), and two schools in the Zambezi region (Liselo Combined School and Masokotwani Combined School). 

The construction of these additional facilities included school hostels (for boys and girls, respectively), teachers’ houses, dining halls, classrooms, computer labs, libraries, ablution facilities, sports facilities, septic tanks, and fences.

I am also happy to announce that the construction of these facilities at the four schools have been completed, and these beautiful facilities are due to be handed over to the government of the Republic of Namibia, through the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, some time in August 2024.

Therefore, the Namibian education fraternity, and indeed the Namibian people at large, have greatly benefited from China-Namibia bilateral ties and Chinese aid over the years. As we strive to enhance the provision of education in our country, we are deeply grateful for the continued support from our Chinese friends.

The African Union (AU) has declared the year 2024 as the ‘Year of Education’, and it will be celebrated under the theme, Educate an African Fit for the 21st Century: Building Resilient Education Systems for Increased Access to Inclusive, Lifelong, Quality, and Relevant Learning in Africa’.

It is also worth mentioning that education was never considered before as the AU theme of the year.

From 17 to 19 September 2022, the United Nations secretary general (UN SG), Antonio Guterres, convened a global Summit on Transforming Education. Amid so many other serious global matters, this summit was deemed urgent and given priority on

grounds that globally, education is in deep crisis, and progress towards the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education (SDG4) was badly off track.

That is why the UN SG wanted to impose “a one-in-a-generation” opportunity to address this global education crisis by renewing collective commitment and joint action. Africa weighs heavier than other continents in the gaps towards achievement of SDG4 objectives, which are also reflected in our Continental Education Strategy, Cesa (16-25).

Recent reviews of the Cesa (16-25) and Education 2030 Framework for Action, the AU-Unesco continental report of the Cesa and SDG4, and a joint AU-Unicef report on Transforming Education in Africa, point to the fact that over the past ten years, African Governments have undertaken a wide range of programmes and policy-level efforts to ensure that no child is left behind in access to education. 

There have been substantial efforts on the continent to ensure access, completion, and quality of basic education for all.

However, despite efforts and progress made, four main indicators ring a warning bell:

(a) Although the out-of-school rate keeps steadily decreasing, especially for the primary level, the absolute number has reached the alarming global estimate of 98 million in Africa.

(b) The learning poverty rate, i.e the share of children who cannot read a simple text with comprehension by age 10 was the highest in sub-Saharan Africa before the Covid-19 pandemic, at 86%. This means that nine out of 10 children cannot read a simple text with comprehension by the age of 10.

(c) Africa will need 17 million additional teachers to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030.

(d) It is estimated that Africa will account for more than 90% of global external financing needs for education by 2030, with an additional US$40 billion needed to finance education to achieve SDGs for education, and move towards meeting the aspirations of Africa’s agenda 2063.

In fact, the TES emphasised the need for countries to identify local resources, as well as engage in partnerships with the private sector, development partners and friendly countries, for funding of education provision.

As a forward-thinking and proactive nation, in August 2022, a month before the 2022 UN Transforming Education Summit, we held the National Conference on Education, which yielded 43 key recommendations. As per the Cabinet’s advice, these recommendations were condensed into 10 key levers of change, which are meticulously drafted in the National Conference on Education Implementation Plan, which is a Cabinet approved, seven-year costed plan (2023-2030).

The prioritised levers of change are:

(i)           Inclusive, quality education (Improved access to quality education),

(ii)          Accelerated educational infrastructure development,

(iii)        TVET curriculum review and strengthening,

(iv)        Strengthening and expansion of the Family Literacy programme,

(v) Transforming pre-service teacher education programmes and continuous professional development (CPD) for teachers, to respond to curriculum demands in schools,

(vi)        Professionalisation of the teaching profession,

(vii)      Unlock   the   potential   for   sustainable   development   for   lifelong learning, arts, culture and creative industries,

(viii) Expansion of digital learning and transformation,

(ix)        Education financing,

(x)          Education transformation through organisational development.

This implementation plan has a dedicated implementation unit in the education ministry, and will serve as Namibia’s guiding tool to bring about the much-needed transformation in education. Therefore, our national budget speaks to this plan and is fully aligned to the levers of change, as mentioned above, to systematically address the challenges we face in education. The ministry expects our friends of education like the Chinese government to come on board to have NCE-IP implemented.

As I move towards my conclusion, I implore the National Heritage Council of Namibia, which has the mandate “to provide for the protection and conservation of places and objects of heritage significance and the registration of such places and objects,” to consider granting this statue the status of Namibian and Chinese Heritage. 

Heritage is a key element of understanding the values of tradition, regionalism, and identity that connect us to the past. Through innovation, creativity, and technology, we can preserve our heritage, and amplify its social and economic benefits.

Moreover, heritage enables us to understand the development of common human practices, monuments, nature, and the social and economic impacts they bring to our world. Preserving heritage is rooted in the belief that it creates a better life for all, whether socially or economically. It brings benefits such as tourism, participation in traditional events, and the consumption of local gastronomy and art.

Social value denotes the significance of places that bring a sense of identity, belonging, and association through people, places, and shared social experiences. It promotes local values and fosters local pride through communal practices in intangible forms such as memory, oral history, and genealogy.

Symbolic value is the shared meaning and power associated with heritage. It complements cultural and historic identity through meaning, raising awareness and pride in cultural identity from a communal perspective.

Therefore, as we unveil the chairman Mao Zedong statue today, let us remember the values it represents. May it serve as a reminder of the strong bonds of friendship and cooperation between Namibia and China. Together, we can continue to build a brighter future for our nations, rooted in mutual respect, understanding, and shared heritage.

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