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Nonformal Education

As in most African countries, large land areas, long distances between cities, and the remoteness of large numbers of the population make it necessary for many people to obtain higher education through distance education. In distance education there is, thus, not always a clear distinction between nonformal and formal education in these countries. While Namibian education was under the jurisdiction of the South African authorities, distance education was undertaken primarily by the University of South Africa (UNISA) in Pretoria. Recognized internationally as a pioneer in distance education, as well as for the quality of its education, UNISA conferred bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees in most fields. University faculty corresponded with students by mail, occasionally by telephone, and, whenever possible, through annual meetings in designated areas. In 1981, at the height of the political struggle when large numbers of Namibians fled across the border into Angola or Zambia, international assistance given to host countries to deal with refugees was used to establish the Namibian Extension Unit. This unit provided distance education to adults deprived of the opportunity of a formal education in their own country. Literacy skills and basic education courses designed for primary and junior secondary education refugees were offered mainly through printed correspondence texts and audiocassettes.

After 1990, when refugees began returning home, the Namibia Extension Unit was reorganized to provide traditional formal education by means of distance education. Sponsored by the United Nations Fund for Namibia, the Ford Foundation, OXFAM (UK), and the Swedish International Development Agency, the unit now provides practical skills in literacy and basic education, as well as professional education and training for adults who have at least four years of primary education. Instruction is via printed correspondence texts and audiocassettes. Others involved in distance teaching are the University of Namibia; the distance education program for teachers implemented under the former Department of National Education, which focuses mainly on primary teacher training, postsecondary university level courses, and university level diplomas for police science and public administration; and the Department of National Education Distance Education College.

As access to televisions, videos, films, and computers is beyond the reach of many in the developing world, educational technology transfer becomes problematic. Consequently, most developing countries start with radio, tape recorders, telephone, filmstrips, and slide transparencies—media that is less costly to install and maintain than television, films, and computers. Namibia is no exception. During the 1990s the Commonwealth of Learning instituted a number of pilot projects in different African countries designed to provide teleconferencing support services to students involved in distance education. One such project was to link the Namibian Distance Education College, based in Windhoek, with regional teacher resource centers spread across the country. The main objectives of the college are the in-service training and certification of primary and secondary school teachers; the training and certification of nurses, community health and nutrition counselors, agriculture extension agents, and organizers of adult and nonformal education programs; English courses; and the training of vocational and technical trainers. The college is examining ways to best use Namibia's relatively well-developed telecommunications infrastructure and, in cooperation with the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation, is developing Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI), a program that has proved effective in teaching English to teachers and in primary schools in Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Swaziland, and Belize.

In 1980 several African countries mainly comprising the so-called front-line states—countries most economically dependant on South Africa and most affected by the political struggle there (Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe)—joined together to form the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC). In 1992 they were joined by Namibia. In 1994 South Africa became the eleventh member of the organization, which was renamed the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The role of the organization was to encourage economic independence for its members through the improvement of national and intercountry communication infrastructures, as well as the growth of intercountry trade and cultural ties, including the coordination and development of education. By organizing joint training facilities and training sessions, the Southern African Transport and Communications Commission (SATCC), one arm of the SADCC, promoted cooperation in human resource development. SATCC also promoted cooperation among the telecommunications administrations of the region via the Pan African Telecommunications (Panaftel) microwave network and satellite links, international gateway exchanges, and earth stations. These projects undertaken by Penaftel are vital for the furthering of distance education, teleconferencing, and eventual Internet access in Namibia and the region as a whole.

By the end of 1999, all African countries except Eritrea, Somalia, and Libya had local Internet access, with South Africa leading in the number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and the number of computers connected to the Internet. In the other countries, Internet access is limited to the capital cities. In Namibia, however, some Points of Presence (POPs) have been established in locations outside the capital city. While Internet access presents African academic and research institutions with access to libraries and research institutions worldwide, there is growing concern that there is very little African content available on the Internet. The global information infrastructure is dominated not only by the English language, but its content almost exclusively targets the needs of users in the United States and the United Kingdom. A 1999 survey of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has shown that Africa generates only 0.4 percent of global content. If the South African contribution is excluded, the figure is merely 0.02 percent. While a great deal of research has been done on the African continent, this is unfortunately only available in the sponsoring institutions. Foreign languages spoken in Africa (English, Portuguese, and French) are well represented on the Internet, but little has been done to advance African indigenous languages through this medium.

As of the early 2000s, the University of Namibia's Human Rights and Documentation Center, which has as its central mission the creating and cultivating of human rights and democracy in Namibia, has a searchable database that gives access to the work done at conferences and workshops. The National Archives of Namibia also provide access to a number of searchable databases. While still rather limited in scope, there is great potential.

Additional topics

Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education ReferenceNamibia - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education