Windhoek – Education lies at the heart of Africa’s development and economic growth. Africa is still hamstrung by underdevelopment due to weak social and economic institutions, which can only be strengthened by investing in education and training.
Therefore, it is absolutely critical that African governments invest in educating its child from cradle to university. This is according to the Namibian Founding President, Dr Sam Nujoma.
“Education to me is a key to a better life for anybody. Education is what we need the most in Africa. It is important that children in Africa have access to education from kindergarten, to primary school, secondary school up to university level,” Nujoma told The Southern Times last week.
He said the African Union should spearhead the mobilisation of resources to eradicate poverty by ensuring that all children attend school.
“The greatest challenge facing Namibia and other countries in Africa is poverty. And poverty can only be combated effectively if we make sure that every child attends school from kindergarten to primary school and secondary school up to university level. That is the only way we can eradicate poverty and ignorance in our societies,” said the elder statesman, who was Namibia’s head of state from 1990 to 2005.
Education lies at the heart of Nujoma’s philanthropic work. He has been mobilising funds from the private sector to build a primary school for children of farmworkers in the area of the Otjozondjupa region. The school is built on Etunda Farm Trust land near the town of Otavi. The nearly completed school consists of several classroom blocks and a house to accommodate teachers.
“This school is specifically aimed at the children whose parents are working in the white-owned farms. They do not go to school, but the white (farmers) have sent their children to boarding schools in town, while the indigenous children are left on the farm with their parents. If it is a boy, he follows the father to go and look after the cattle, while a girl does what the mother does. So, I joined government efforts to combat illiteracy in the country because education is the key to a better life for everybody,” Nujoma said.
The Sam Nujoma Foundation is expected to hold a fundraising drive for the construction of a hostel. An aide to the Founding President has revealed that Nujoma has already bought bricks and other essential building materials for the project. Once completed, the revered national hero of the Namibian independence movement said he will donate the Etunda Primary School (Grade 1-7) to the Ministry of education, Arts and Culture.
“The children will stay in the hostel while attending school from Monday and on Friday afternoon they will go back to their families. I do not want them to lose that family bond, they also need time with their parents,” he said. And someone has promised a bus that will be used to transport the children to school – I just hope he will deliver.”
Nujoma, who turns 90 on May 12, has also built a clinic on the same land, which he has donated to the Ministry of Health and Services in 2017.
The clinic currently caters for farmworkers and their families in the surrounding commercial farming areas between Otavi and Otjiwarongo.
Nujoma said his drive for equal education stems from the harsh conditions that Namibians endured under apartheid education, specifically Bantu education.
The discriminatory system that took effect in 1954 governed the education of black children in South Africa and Namibia (then South West Africa). “With Bantu education, you learn nothing,” Nujoma recalled.
Due to the limitation of Bantu education, Nujoma and compatriots took up private studies to learn English through the TransAfrica Correspondence College in Africa.
Meanwhile, Nujoma has commended the Namibian government for ongoing efforts to make education free for all. “Free education, started in SWAPO long-time ago including to eradicate the Bantu education. But up to now, we have not succeeded, so that’s why every effort must be made to spend more money on education and training,” he said.