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Young parliamentarians stress need for investment in technology in Namibia

© UNICEF Namibia/2011/González
Child parliamentarians debating one of the motions during the three-day event in Windhoek, Namibia's capital.

By Judy Matjila

WINDHOEK, Namibia, 16 May 2011 – Last week’s Third Session of Namibia’s Children’s Parliament had a clear message: information and communication technology (ICT) skills and services are essential if the country is to achieve its vision of reaching industrialized nation status by 2030.

The final communiqué from the UNICEF-supported three-day event highlighted that not only is such technology important for national development, but also as a means for young Namibians to keep abreast of current information and global trends.

Cyberspace generation 

Speaking at the opening of the session in the country’s capital, Windhoek, Namibia’s National Assembly Speaker, Theo-Ben Gurirab, told the young parliamentarians that they are at the core of the cyberspace generation, and their lives and actions shape social media networks. “Use the tools to advance your own causes and Africa's interests,” said Dr. Gurirab.

© UNICEF Namibia/2011/González
The child parliamentarians pose for a group photo in front of the National Assembly building in Windhoek, Namibia's capital.

While discussing the motion – ‘Equipping schools with ICT and the positive impact it has on learners’ performance’ – Namibia’s Minister of Education, Abraham Iyambo, reiterated the government’s commitment to using information technology in all schools.

Parliamentarian William Hangula, 17, stressed the need for young people to have access to computers. “Through ICT we can get information and know what is happening in the world around us,” she said. “If the government does not provide computers to schools, we will be left out.”

Use of modern communication technology is on the rise in Namibia. The proportion of cellular phone subscribers increased from 31 per cent in 2006 to 55 per cent in 2010. Cell phone networks cover 95 per cent of the population.

Yet the majority of learners do not have access to a computer, in part because of the cost of establishing and installing infrastructure in remote and rural communities.

Inclusive democracy

“Technology can be used to capture the views and priorities of Namibian children and young people about key issues that affect their lives, today and tomorrow,” said UNICEF Representative in Namibia Ian MacLeod. “Through the use of technology and even social media, young Namibians can participate and contribute to the process of shaping policies and laws.”

The session of the Children’s Parliament brought together 40 students, representing the 13 regions of the country, and was timed to link with the commencement of Namibia’s Fourth National Development Plan.

© UNICEF Namibia/2011/González
Tshedi Mholo, UNICEF Celebrity Advocate in South Africa and lead singer of music group 'Malaika', implored the child parliamentarians to be voices of the nation.

In addition to discussing information technology, other debates and motions focused on reducing inequity and disparity, improving quality education outcomes, ensuring viable employment opportunities for young Namibians, and accelerating action towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The Namibian Children’s Parliament aims to fast track policies that will improve the rights and welfare of children and young people. The First Session of the Children’s Parliament took place in May 2007, and the second in 2008.

Present at this year’s Parliament was Tshedi Mholo, UNICEF Celebrity Advocate in South Africa and lead singer of music group ‘Malaika’, who gave a motivational speech to the young parliamentarians.

Plan of action

“You are here to influence decisions on policies and laws that affect you,” she said. “You are also here to pursue not only your individual visions and dreams, but also to pursue the hopes and concerns of the thousands of Namibian children out there. You are their voices.”

The Third Session of the Children’s Parliament ended with the signing and adoption of the final communiqué, which contained 20 motions. Reaffirming his own and the government’s commitment to ensuring the recommendations are acted upon, the National Assembly Speaker, Dr. Gurirab, assured the young parliamentarians that all motions will be discussed by the National Assembly and forwarded for action.



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