Submission to the Committee on the Rights of the Child

The Ombudsman: Namibia (NHRI)

Submission to the

Committee on the Rights of the Child

Submitted on 16 January 2012

INTRODUCTION

The Ombudsman: Namibia was established under Chapter 10 of the Namibian Constitution and the Ombudsman Act, No 7 of 1990. It is a hybrid office, that is classical Ombudsman with additional mandates. The mandates are the investigation of complaints relating to maladministration; violation of human rights and freedoms, the over-utilization of living natural resources, the irrational exploitation of non-renewable resources and the misappropriation of public monies and other property by officials. Namibia does not have a separate human rights institution and by virtue of this specific human rights mandate, the Ombudsman is the national human rights institution. The office received a status “A” accreditation from the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC) during April 2006.

Given our oppressive past, the Ombudsman must credit the government for the enormous effort it has made to improve the human rights situation in Namibia. However, much more needs to be done to ensure that the rights and freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution and the international instruments, ratified by Namibia, become a reality for all Namibians. The government must also be commended for the frank way in which issues are address in the State Report. It will be difficult to limit the submission to the 2007 position only. The submission will also touch on the current position in regard to some issues. The submission of the Ombudsman will emphasize key children rights issues that need to be addressed to give effect to constitutional guarantees. Some of these issues were addressed in the 2006 Annual Report of the Ombudsman.

 

1.         Education

Education is a key factor in sustainable development and for eradication of poverty. While education has become more accessible in all parts of the country, the level of educational attainment of the Namibian population is still very low. While primary education net enrolment keeps improving at levels of 92,3% in 2007 to 98,3% in 2009, there is a worrying trend of not retaining the number of enrolled primary school learners in secondary education. The education net enrolment for secondary education stood at 52,6% in 2007 and 54,8% in 2009.

This means that proportionally more children drop out or do not get access to education at all. The Namibian Constitution guarantees free and compulsory primary education. However parents must contribute to the school development fund, pay for stationary, uniforms, school books, transport and examination fees. Parents who cannot afford the school development fund may apply for exemption. The Ombudsman call on government to:

  • abolish the school development fund for primary education and to introduce legislative, administrative and other measures to compel children to attend school, thereby reducing the school drop out rate;
  • to introduce steps towards progressively achieving free secondary and higher education;
  • encourage a culture of respect for human rights from an early age by introducing human rights education in schools;
  • expand the program of vocational education to accommodate school drop outs as well as those who complete primary or secondary education but without skills to offer in the urban labour market.
  • provide education facilities that are on par in all parts of the country;
  • align education to economic needs.

2.         Poverty and Unemployment

Entrenched poverty impacts significantly on the overall well-being of children. Namibia remains one of the most economically unequal countries in the world. The causes of poverty are many and varied. Namibia is faced with a huge unemployment problem. In 2004 the rate of unemployment was 36,7%. It is currently 51%, although some doubt is now expressed about the percentage. To address the unemployment problem, the education system needs to be tailor made to the labour market needs. Wages and salaries play significant roles in the livelihood of the majority, as 48% of the country depends on wages for subsistence. Wage levels  for the less educated  majority remains low. The Namibia Occupational Wage Survey (NOWS) 2002 reveals that 14,9% of employees in various industries earn N$ 600-00 and below per month. The extend to which this amount attributes to a fair wage sufficient to guarantee a decent living for a family, is highly questionable. Neither the Labour Act or any other law provides for statutory minimum wages, although the mining, construction and agricultural sectors set basic levels of pay through collective bargaining. This highlights the need for Government to introduce a comprehensive wage policy in the country calling for the introduction of minimum wages in all sectors of the economy.

The Ombudsman calls on Government to prioritize the creation of productive employment there by improving Namibia’s income distribution and combating poverty.