After independence, the country adopted economic structures that cannot allow for growth. At the moment, the country experiences a yearly growth around 3%. To plan for real development, Namibia would need much more than that, 7 to 10%. There is 51% unemployment; among the youth it is more than 60%. The government is the largest employer in the country. This model is collapsing since it is impossible to offer more jobs, to take in more graduates. So far, the government relied on selling commodities and using the money to pay salaries. This is now under strain and cannot continue.
The distribution of wealth shows great disparities. Many make only US$ 200 a year, while a small minority controls all the wealth. Today we see the younger generation moving
to urban areas looking for better jobs, but encountering instead an expensive living that they cannot afford. Some young leaders are now looking at North Africa with its democratic revolutions, they do it very carefully. They feel that the tensions of the country might explode.
Namibia is large with a small population, and many ethnic groups. This means that there are structural differences to overcome. We are now at a crossroad and the ruling party does not have ideas. Most of the highest officials are of an age when they should look for retirement. They instead want to continue ruling, and they have not a clue of what to do. The younger folks are shut out. The old SWAPO leaders have little education and good political sense, but are unable to face the challenges of the modern world.
The University of Namibia is a miracle. The campus is the former apartheid era teachers’ college. After independence, the University was located there and it has grown from none to 10.000 students with some 50 some faculties. It can grant doctorates. Perhaps it grew too fast. Help came from other African countries, which sent seasoned professors to give a kick start. On the negative side, the administration tends to put in their own people a little too fast. It is understandable, but it is also true that in doing that there is the danger to lose much experience and knowledge. In any case, students are eager to learn, the structure is in place and the government supports the project.
The school is, sadly, a provider of information. Few teachers challenge students to reflect on the importance of values. Unfortunately, many of the latter are studying in view of getting better jobs, of leaving poverty. There is a group of students, and former students, who realize the importance of growing at human level, of being able to become leaders, not just have a diploma to get a white-collar job.
At the University we offer spiritual guidance, retreats. We also propose workshops on leadership and human growth. Yet it is difficult to propose extra curricula activities because most students need to find a way to sustain themselves. There is one student who has received a grant to study, but no grant for his life. He walks 30 km a day to save on transport, and still needs to find the money to buy food and rent a room. For most it is a case of climbing a mounting going from one ledge to the next. They have no time for other activities.
Interestingly, I found that many students are ready to speak openly about their experience, and listen carefully for the answers they get. They are testing the ground to see where they can go. The younger people are preparing to challenge the status quo. For the time being it is an idea that goes into many minds, but the time is coming when the ideal will be voiced.
In relation to the youth, the Churches as a whole are dragging behind. We have an inferiority complex. After the achievement of independence, the Churches were ready to criticize the performance of the government. Now things have changed. The Churches have lost their prophetic stand. They had supported SWAPO and the fight for independence but are unable to continue with the same tension. There is the tendency to go into business, a path that will alienate the people in the long run. The Church can still galvanize the people. At the moment is sleeping, but it has the strength, the people and the conviction that could lead to a change.
Based on an interview with Fr Richard Albertine