COUNCIL FOR EDUCATION IN THE COMMONWEALTH ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Safari Hotel and Conference Centre, Windhoek, Namibia | 28 & 29 August 2017
In the lush surroundings of the Safari Hotel and Conference Centre, over two hundred delegates together with VIPs from the Namibian Government, press and TV crews gathered for the Council for Education in the Commonwealth (CEC) Annual Conference, jointly organised with the University of Namibia. Delegates came from Namibia, Southern and Eastern Africa, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.
This first venture for the CEC outside the United Kingdom was an ambitious undertaking for everyone involved. Its theme, essentially linkages between higher education and industry and their potential for development, took us out of exclusively academic terrain. We were basing ourselves in a young country, with only a handful of our own members able to be present. It is a pleasure, therefore, to report that the occasion was a great success. The conference was well covered in the local media and attracted highly qualified Namibian and international speakers.
The Pro-Vice Chancellor, Professor Dr Kenneth Kamwi Matengu on behalf of the Vice Chancellor, Professor Lazarus Hangula gave the welcoming remarks (Click HERE) during the Official Opening Ceremony. This was followed by Sonny Leong CBE, on behalf of CEC who delivered the opening address (Click HERE) setting out the theme of the Conference.
The keynote address was delivered by Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Commonwealth Secretary General (Click HERE). This was her first visit to Namibia in this role. She attended as much of the conference as she could between her other official duties. Her powerful statement about Commonwealth priorities emphasised her determination that the Commonwealth should achieve its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. She said that this could not be done without a pledge by ordinary Commonwealth citizens to bring them about, as much as by governments. She looked ahead to the meeting of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Fiji next February and made clear her own personal commitment to education as a priority.
Plenary sessions at the Conference examined how education and business can form enterprising and innovative alliances; ways to strengthen the bridge between schools, higher education and industry; methods of building capacity and ensuring quality in tertiary education; the development of indigenous publishing and digital learning; education’s impact on the knowledge economy internationally; and future possibilities for closing the gap between universities and the commercial sector.
Nearly thirty abstracts (Click HERE) were selected for the parallel sessions covering a range of education disciplines and topics over the two days. These sessions were well attended and many suggested afterwards that we should have allowed more time for these sessions.
Distinguished Namibian speakers included Professor Peter Katjavivi, Speaker of the National Assembly, Anna Nghipondoka, Deputy Minister of Education, Becky Ndjoze-Ojo, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, Sam Shivute, Director of Banking Services at the Bank of Namibia, Festus Mbandeka, Chief Executive Officer of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia, and Mocks Shivute, CEO of the NCHE, as well as many prominent representatives of the Namibian universities. Speakers from elsewhere included Dr Joanna Newman, Secretary General, Association of Commonwealth Universities, Professor Mabel Imbuga, Vice Chancellor, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Faraz Khan, Co-founder, SEED Ventures, Peter Kraan, a leading South African educationalist, and our own Chair, Sonny Leong.
This Conference constantly demonstrated the need for partnerships between higher education and the world of business and industry in order to bring about the effective development of both, to the betterment of all Commonwealth countries.
In addition to the formal structure of the Conference, there were evening receptions for delegates to network and connect with each other. Cultural performances were put on together plenty of local cuisine and beverages. The final evening culminated in dancing around an African fire to the sounds of drumming and singing.
Full proceedings together with video clippings of the Conference will be made available later. Meanwhile the CEC is hugely grateful to all our Namibian colleagues who made this occasion so valuable and who ensured its efficient running, especially three members of UNAM, Lazarus Hangula, Vice Chancellor, who was unfortunately prevented from attending by last minute hospitalisation, Kenneth Matengu, Pro Vice Chancellor, and Charmaine Villet, Dean of Education. Richard Mawditt, former Trustee, was the principal organiser at the CEC end in Britain. To all these people the CEC extends its warmest gratitude.
We now look forward to our next overseas CEC conference, which it was announced in Namibia will take place at St George’s University, Grenada, in July 2019. That institution was handsomely introduced to participants by its Vice Provost Educational Services, Glen Jacobs. By way of extending its Commonwealth impact the CEC has put a toe in the water this year and on the basis of the obvious success of its Namibian conference we now look to much more thorough immersion in the years ahead.