This chapter provides an overview of higher education in Namibia. Specific reference are made to the historical background and development of the two public institutions of higher learning in Namibia. The two cases under investigation are the University of Namibia (UNAM) and the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).
In 2006, with the expansion of the higher education market for the previous two decades the question was asked whether “governments can rely on these higher learning institutions to assist them to meet the social and equity objectives of its nation” (Varghese, 2007, p.9). Links and Haimbodi (2011) claim that State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s) such as public institutions of higher learning play a significant role in service delivery, procurement, infrastructure development and employment in Namibia. The performance of institutions of higher learning can, largely, be regarded as an important indicator when assessing the overall health of a country’s economy. The problem statement underlying this study and the research questions to address the statement of the problem are deal with in the succeeding sections together with the importance and the limitations and delimitations of this study. The last section of this chapter covers an overview of the outline of the subsequent chapters. In conclusion, a summary of this chapter and an introduction of the second chapter are given at the end of this chapter.
The historians agree that higher education began at the start of the 13th century (Hooker, 1997) while the short history of African institutions of higher learning in contrast, dating back to the 1960s, when most African countries obtained their independence from colonial rule (Eshiwani, 1999). According to Eshiwani, (1999) the challenges facing African institutions of higher learning were twofold. The first challenge was to use higher learning as a vehicle to offer high level training for the citizens of the newly independent countries. To achieve this, institutions of higher learning were force to expand their numbers and the quantity of programmes offered to both address the legacy of colonialism and to provide for the future needs of the independent republics. The second challenge was that the new African institutions of higher learning were expected to learn from the colonial traditions and academia, while responding to the actual problems, needs and expectations of the newly independent countries. The institutions of higher learning in Africa were see as the drivers of economic development in their societies. Although these higher learning institutions made a significant contribution to ensure high-level work force for their country, it is difficult to find real evidence of any contribution made to the development of the African economies, with Namibia as no exception.
The Republic of Namibia became the youngest country in Africa at that time to gain its independence in 1990. Namibia currently has a population of 2.48 million people
(IndexMundi, 2017). Namibia is situated in the south-western part of the African continent and is one of the least densely populated countries in Africa, with an average of 2.5 persons per square kilometre (IndexMundi, 2017). The country has 14 different cultural groups and eight indigenous languages with English as the official language (IndexMundi, 2017). Agriculture, mining and tourism are the most important sectors spearheading the economy of the country (IndexMundi, 2017). According to the World Bank, Namibia Gross National Income per capita was $ 10 550 (purchasing power parity) (World Bank, 2016). The World Bank, therefore, placed Namibia in the upper-middle income group of countries. However, this failure to take into account the ethnic divide masks the developmental challenges some sections of the population faces.
Prior to independence the population was made up of 87,5% black and 12,5% of other groups (IndexMundi, 2017). The black people of Namibia did not experience the same opportunities as their white counterparts in South West Africa (SWA). Twenty seven years after independence the Government of the Republic of Namibia (GRN) is still struggling to reduce inequality and poverty. Currently Namibia is one of the countries with one of the most unequal wealth distributions in the world, with a Gini coefficient of 0,5971% in 2009/2010 as estimated by World Bank (World Bank, 2016).