Education is key if Namibia is to achieve the UN SDGs

Dear Editor,

As a ‘developing’ nation, Namibia is constantly trying to improve the social-economic standards of the country and of its people. It does not do so alone, the government works with public and private organisations, with NGOs, charities and large organisations like United Nations (UN), European Union, the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) and many others.

There are projects, programmes, some long term and some short term focused on single issues, and then there are projects that can only be described as country changing. The Vision 2030 and the implementation and execution of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can transform our very society. However, apart from having the funds, the know-how, the will and collective passion to achieve the UN SDGs, we need education.

If we do not educate Namibians at all levels of society and whichever station in life they are at, we as a nation will never achieve Vision 2030 and the UN SDGs. Looking at the UN SDGs drivers and the principle of Leave No One Behind (LNOB) it seems an easy concept to grasp. However, do all Namibians understand what can be achieved if we address the different SDGs?

There are 17 of them, ranging from focus on Zero Hunger as well less obvious ones like SDG 16, championing ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’. They are all vital, but if not explained and embraced, people will remain unsure and confused as to why money is being spent on certain activities that don’t seem to uplift them out of poverty within a year. Or put food on their tables.

The need for education across the 14 regions cannot be underestimated and needs to take many forms. It has to start at ground level and focus on the poorest of the poor. If they understand the four UN SDGs that focus on: 1: No Poverty, 2: Zero Hunger, 8: Decent work and economic growth and 10 Reduced inequalities. If they truly understand what that can mean for them personally, their communities and families in the longer run, then we can move forward as a nation.  We need to address these goals and through; outreach programmes, workshops, seminars, communication campaigns, going into schools and townhall meetings, teach the principles of the UN SDGs.   

The activities to implement and execute the UN SD’s are to focus on the poorest and the weakest first. If they start to believe and embrace the UN SDGs and what they stand for. Demand their equal opportunity, zero hunger, clean water and sanitation as well as decent work and economic growth then we can start building the nation. But, it takes buy-in for all Namibians and it can only be achieved if the Namibians across the country believe the activities, projects and programmes are being executed with them in mind and with them as an intrinsic part of it.

Therefore, like so often and with almost everything, education is key. This means communicating the message in many forms and may include; activations, learning through play, animations as well as the workshops and other educational formats mentioned previously. Just imagine if we can achieve a situation where our very youngest learners understand the idea of ‘nation-building’ that the UN SDGs is trying to achieve, they will in turn also advocate that to their parents and communities and before you know it the nation lives and breathes the UN SDGs and the LNOB principles, making it so much easier to get our people involved and excited about the future. We just need to educate them.

*Dr Ned Sibeya is National Planning Commission’s development partner coordinating deputy chief