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Knowledge is power for Angolans

Article - July 31, 2014
The education and training of Angola’s young population presents both a challenge and an opportunity to give the population the skills needed to boost the country
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY MET MEMBERS OF THE YOUNG AFRICAN LEADERS’ INITIATIVE (YALI) ON A RECENT VISIT TO ANGOLA.
Angola is a young country not only in years but certainly more importantly in its demographics. According to government statistics, one half of the population of almost 20 million is under the age of 15 and educating and employing these young people presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the country.

Decades of war shattered the basic educational system left by the Portuguese colonizers and so an entire generation missed out on schooling from the earliest ages up to university. Once the conflict was over, most of these young people did not possess even the most basic skills needed to rebuild Angola.

At the same time, many members of the country’s educated class had fled abroad and were reluctant to return to fill vacant teaching posts until they saw in which direction their homeland was headed.

The education challenge

Today, bolstered by earnings from its massive petroleum reserves, the Angolan government is moving swiftly to turn the country’s education system around, ploughing billions of dollars into building schools and universities, establishing teacher training programs and reaching out to foreign institutions and companies to give it a hand.

It won’t be easy but Angolan educators from university presidents to village teachers are eager to accept the challenge that Minister of Education Pinda Simão insists is a top priority for the country if Angola is to take its proper place in the world.

Among those determined to see this goal realized are the directors of government institutes and private institutions dedicated to teaching a new generation of Angolan scientists, technicians, teachers and civil servants.

“Education is the basis without which we wouldn’t be able to achieve anything and you can’t build a nation without an educated workforce,” says José Ribeiro, Director General of the National School of Administration (ENAD) which educates and trains the thousands of public employees who will be vital in guiding Angola in the future.

“With such a young population we have huge potential to develop our country but that is only true if we can educate and train these youths,” he adds. “Currently, for each person retiring, eight young people are entering the job market and we need to train them and create job opportunities.”

According to the general director, just over a decade ago there were some 25,000 students enrolled in higher education programs and now that number has quadrupled. This shows, he says, “that the government cares about elevating the level of education and training which in turn will elevate the development of the country.”

ENAD targets institutional strengthening

In its mission statement, ENAD states that its purpose is to contribute to the institutional strengthening and development of Angola through the specialization of skills needed to increase quality, productivity, modernization and the effectiveness of public and private institutions.

Bolstered by earnings from  petroleum, the government is moving swiftly to turn the country’s education system around, ploughing billions of dollars into building schools and universities.

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Multinational companies active in Angola are also involved with firms like Total, Siemens, Schlumberger and the Chinese telecoms company CTE helping set up masters’ degrees or student exchange programs.
Among its main goals are to instill in its aspiring civil servants such values as ethics, integrity, responsibility, discipline, objectivity and knowledge to better serve the Angolan people.

“In our training, we tend to identify what is wrong in our current practices and, among other subjects, we hold teaching sessions on client service so that our executives are taught to eliminate those habits that can alter the proper functioning of public administration activities,” Mr. Ribeiro explains.

At present, ENAD is focusing on instructing candidates of different levels who will work in government ministries, public institutions and state-owned enterprises. “Along with ethics, these people will learn such subjects as strategic and human resources management,” the general director says.

As in the private sector, Angola is keen to attract more foreign expertise to its educational institutions and Mr. Ribeiro says that would include Americans.

“We’d love to be able to count on lecturers who could come from many parts of the world. Language doesn’t and won’t represent a barrier as specialists do not solely depend on the day to day language in which they communicate,” he says.

ISPTEC and INP, engineering Angola’s future through ‘Angolization’

Western universities were the inspiration for the Polytechnic Institute of Technology and Science (ISPTEC) which opened two years ago and currently offers degrees in mechanical, civil, electrical, computer, chemical and industrial production engineering, as well as in economics and management.

Operating under the supervision of the Ministry of Higher Education, ISPTEC boasts a campus with cutting-edge classrooms, laboratories, auditoriums, sports facilities and cafeterias in Luanda, all geared to turning out a new generation of graduates who will help Angola in its bid to move away from oil as its main economic activity.

“Angola has the potential to become a rich country based on other sectors,” claims ISPTEC General Director Baltazar Miguel. “Creating jobs will have a positive social impact on the country over the long term and it is very important to diversify the economy for balanced growth.”

Key to diversification and development is what educators call “Angolanization”, or training and educating locals who can take the places of the many foreign expatriates now holding many senior positions in Angolan enterprises, both public and private.

“We invest in quality so we can graduate students who are up to the challenge of competing with expats,” Mr. Miguel explains. ISPTEC practices what it preaches as 76% of the teaching staff is Angolan according to law and many Angolan professors working abroad have returned to teach at the institute. But foreign instructors are also welcome as Mr. Miguel wants to create what he terms a “multicultural institution”.

And ISPTEC is open to partnering with international universities. This year it will send around a dozen faculty members to obtain their master’s degrees abroad so they can “apply all that knowledge for the benefit of the nation,” he says.

Multinational companies in Angola are involved with the institute with firms like Total, Siemens, Schlumberger and the Chinese telecoms company CTE helping set up masters’ degrees or exchange programs.

“Our new geosciences department, which is being established through cooperation with Schlumberger, will offer some exciting engineering degrees in petroleum, geochemistry, geophysics and mining,” Mr. Miguel explains.

Angolanization is also the goal of the National Petroleum Institute (INP) that provides courses including geology, mining, drilling and production for those who want to work for or are already employed in the oil and gas industry, says the institute’s General Director, Domingos Francisco.

For those already working in the oil industry the INP provides professional training to improve existing skills through courses tailored to their company’s specific needs of between four and eight months.

“We want to see our students’ qualifications accepted internationally Mr. Francisco says.

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