Adult education in Namibia and Swaziland
New reports recommend best way for forward
In 2011, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) conducted a research study in five countries – Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland – to draw an up-to-date map of the current state of youth and adult education in these countries – the policies, institutional frameworks, governance, funding, provision and stakeholders.
Two of the reports were launched today – on Namibia and Swaziland. And while much work still needs to be done in both countries, the current state of youth and adult education in the two nations could hardly be more different.
Namibia has demonstrated through law, policies and practices that there are good intentions in terms of investing in all groups of people. The laws and policies are inclusive. However, policy makers, actors and providers of youth and adult education services continue to underplay their mandate and fail to recognise and integrate the contributions that youth and adult education offer to the broader economic, social, and human development.
In Namibia, the field of adult education remains fragmented, advocacy efforts are dissipated across a variety of fronts and political credibility is diluted. There is a need to consolidate fragmented bits of law and policy that relate to adult education, and form or reform educational structures in order to achieve desired outcomes in this field. This will require time, determination and commitment. But if the current challenges can be overcome and if the existing passions and aspirations can be gathered into one big effort, the impact on – what is, after all – a small population could be fast and hugely rewarding.
Meanwhile, the study found that the current provision of youth and adult education in Swaziland is nowhere near what is required to achieve the Education for All goals by 2015. The inadequate scale of provision does not bode well for the youth and adults who are neither employed nor enrolled in any education or training programme. Given the size of the youth population compared to other population groups and the urgent need for greater knowledge and skills to make people more employable, the Swazi government must give greater priority to youth and adult education.
Clearly the situation in Swaziland requires greater effort on a range of fronts – and the report does include a list of over 20 critical recommendations, including:
- Swaziland needs a comprehensive youth and adult education policy for those people who have not benefited from the highly selective system of formal education;
- The dormant Adult Education Council should be resuscitated, given the critical role it could play in the promotion of adult education;
- While there are compelling reasons to teach English as a key means of communication in the workplace and bureaucracy, there is overwhelming international evidence that the use of the mother-tongue as the main medium of instruction in primary and basic education is more effective;
- There is a need for a standardisation of the data required from youth and adult education providers;
- The government should support the development of quality assessment, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms as well as support research and data collection in order to formulate and regulate policies, programmes and to evaluate the impact of youth and adult education;
- There should be renewed attempts by all sectors to ensure sustainable funding of youth and adult education and the accountable utilisation of the funds; and
- The poor conditions of service of adult education personnel, particularly in literacy, adult basic and non-formal education need to be rapidly addressed.
Namibia might be ahead of Swaziland in terms of policy development and political will but the report also highlights a number of key measures that need to be taken to boost youth and adult education, including:
- Namibia needs to consolidate existing youth and adult education related policies and legislation into a comprehensive enabling act for youth and adult education;
- There should be a review and revision of policies so that they can be adjusted to the current needs of the population;
- Implementation of policy options relating to marginalised children should be done in a participatory way, which will empower them at various levels and actively encourage their participation in decision-making processes;
- Old versions of implementation guidelines, for example, those of the National Literacy Programme of Namibia, need to be revised, and the implementers need to adapt their practices accordingly;
- Plans to overhaul the conceptualisation, curriculum and materials of the National Literacy Programme of Namibia must be supported as it is increasingly being recognised that initial literacy is not enough on its own;
- Although the Namibia government has invested heavily in education it still needs to urgently increase the investment in youth and adult education; and
- Effective instruments and systems of recognition, validation and accreditation of all forms of learning, monitoring and evaluation should be established.
If these recommendations are adopted and the political will exists to implement them, then there is no doubt that youth and adult education will improve dramatically in Namibia and Swaziland – and that will help to build fairer and more equal societies.