High-tech Namibia thrives under Ford's care

June 29, 2001

The Ford Foundation is increasing its financial support for a distance-learning project designed to help a remote part of northern Namibia that is trying to recover from the ravages of the former South African regime.

The foundation has granted $1 million (£700,000) to the University of Namibia's northern campus, bringing its total financial support for the project to $2.53 million over three years.

The university had feared that the foundation would cut the grant in line with a policy of trying to make projects self-sustaining.

Last year, the university warned that Ford was due to end its funding for the campus in March and that while there would "be a gentle tapering of funds from the foundation, it is fair to assume that income-generation and the sourcing of additional funding are high on the priority list of the campus".

That goal has not changed, though the immediate worries are over. The foundation has come to regard the university as its flagship project in Africa.

Dee Dee Yates, the foundation's project liaison officer in Namibia, said:

"We are extremely happy with it... We think of the campus not just in terms of higher education, but also from the perspective of the revitalisation of civil society in the north."

The project is based at Oshakati, 650km north of Windhoek. Nearly half the country's population lives in the region, which is two days' travel from the capital.

The civil war spilling across the border with Angola 65km away produces even more obstacles to higher education in the area.

Dick Chamberlain, who retired in April as director of the university's language centre, said: "We got an offer from Oshakati town council to look at a community hall, which was derelict and full of squatters and chickens. We renovated it and were in business. The Ford Foundation gave us a complete set of equipment for interactive video."

Some 1,400 students enrolled at the Northern Campus last year. Courses and degree programmes on offer include nursing, education and African languages.

Business management programmes for small and medium-sized businesses are also available.

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