WINDHOEK: A birth certificate should not serve as a ticket for children in Namibia to go to school or visit a clinic, says United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda.
She was speaking during a media conference on Monday at the end of her first fact-finding mission to Namibia.
The independent expert on extreme poverty arrived in Namibia on 01 October 2012, and visited the Omaheke, Kavango, Khomas, and Karas regions, where she met with Government officials, civil society organisations and communities living in poverty.
“The government must ensure that the lack of a birth certificate is not an impediment to access basic public service such as education and health. Every child in the country including those born to foreign parents must have access to basic public service without discrimination of any kind,” she stressed.
Sepúlveda called on government to review the outdated and inadequate law on birth registration with specific reference to the Birth Marriage and Death Registration Act of 1963.
She raised concern about Namibia’s ranking among the top ten countries in the world in terms of money spent on education. However, quality of education remains a major concern, with Namibia’s performance in this regard falling well below what spending would suggest and lagging behind in international rankings.
Many schools, particularly in disadvantaged areas, are in a bad state, lacking sanitation facilities, equipment and materials.
Sepúlveda raised a warning about education that is hampered by an insufficient teacher-student ratio, poor teacher training and lack of learning material in minority languages.
“Increased efforts should be made to improve quality of education through a more efficient use of resources, standardization measures, monitoring of results and sensitizing teachers to the particular educational needs of vulnerable groups,” she noted.
The independent expert made a recommendation to government to consider abolishing the health user fees and the school development fund scheme, which impede access to essential service for Namibians living in extreme poverty.
United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda called on government to put aside prejudices against the poor and implement the Basic Income Grant (BIG) as soon as possible.
“I was impressed to witness the positive impacts of BIG in reducing poverty, improving access to health and education, diminishing crime and increasing social cohesion. The government should be leading the debate and undertake studies on the viability of extending BIG throughout the country,” she noted.
The BIG pilot project commenced in the Otjivero-Omitara area about 100 kilometres east of Windhoek since January 2008. All residents below the age of 60 years receive a grant of N.dollars 100 per person per month, without any conditions being attached. The grant is being given to every person registered as living there in July 2007, whatever their social and economic status.
Sepúlveda, who arrived in Namibia on 01 October 2012 visited the Otjivero community.
She described the project as a ‘world-praised example’ and commended the efforts of civil society organisations in initiating and implementing the project.
The BIG is a form of social protection, which reduces poverty and supports pro-poor economic growth. As a national policy it would greatly assist Namibia in achieving the Millenium Development Goals to which the country has committed itself.
The costs of a national BIG in Namibia are substantial. It is estimated that the net cost is calculated at about N.dollars 1.2 and 1.6 billion per year, equivalent to nearly 3 per cent of Namibia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Government has not yet committed itself to the introduction of the country-wide BIG.