Of course, at a glance, one would want to applaud such a gesture from the head of state; at least he is doing something positive to address a key problem and something is always better than nothing.
Given his declaration of personal wealth in the tens of millions of dollars, returning a portion of his presidential pay cheque to assist young people with educational expenses is generous. But, on closer review, the gesture is reminiscent of something more disturbing.
Twenty percent of the presidential salary towards the crisis of affordable education in Namibia is less than a drop in a bucket. On its own, with no system for distribution and no selection process yet announced, it is like a sick patient in a hospital in need of medicines to stay alive, being offered a super comfortable pillow while they lay there suffering in bed.
It’s a good thing, but rather keep the pillow and provide the correct amount of medicines that can cure the patient.
How many employers of domestic workers, pay ridiculously low monthly wages and then feel like they’ve done something special by giving their staff ‘gifts’ of second-hand old clothing and left-over food?
Rather keep the old clothes and discarded food and increase the monthly salary so that the workers can earn a living wage and take care of their food and clothing needs for themselves.
It is high time to stop symbolic actions and get busy with substantive and significant programmes that actually solve the problem. When looking for money to redeploy within a tight budget to use for other necessities, the first place to look is the high ticket items on the roster. Real money is needed to invest in higher education in Namibia.
To find the money needed for thousands of students to benefit, considering cutting the multi-million dollar programmes that are underway or planned like the Parliament building, and the millions paid out on mass housing contracts that were illegally breeched by GRN’s precipitous cancellation of the project.
Expenditure on constant million dollar roadworks on streets that are in satisfactory/good condition, expansion of the number of seats in Parliament and the cost incurred as a result, can also be avoided.
TIPEEG funded building of new government office spaces all over the country, the recent trip to the USA and Cuba by State House with over 40 delegates all using hard currency as S&T, for airline tickets, food and hotels all while the Rand devalues quarter by quarter – all are potential targets for serious budget virements of hundreds of millions that will permanently provide educational opportunities for all Namibians.
The choices made with the entire budget are in question here, not the good intentions or symbolic gesture of the president. The 20 percent solution isn’t in fact a solution.
The place to find the real money needed to address the issue of providing more bursaries for students is cutting the massively expensive projects and making a systemic change in how budgetary choices are made.
If we do this as a matter of policy, then 20 percent of anyone’s salary is not needed for something as fundamental as educational opportunities for young people.