Namibia was the fifth stop on my seven-country tour of Africa last week. Everywhere I went, I saw great examples of how our partnership with African countries is paying dividends. As President Obama said in his address last year in Ghana and Secretary Clinton reiterated in her address to the AGOA Forum in Nairobi: we will be partners with the African people as they strive to build economic prosperity in their countries, but these must be partnerships built on shared responsibility.
An important feature of my stop in Namibia was the opportunity to participate in a ceremony marking a milestone in their MCC Compact: the handover of 695,164 textbooks for 951 schools in Namibia. Namibia's goal is a science, mathematics and English textbook for every child in grades 5 though 12. This is an important first step.
The event was held at NAMCOL, the Namibian College of Open Learning center in Katatura, one of the poorest sections of Windhoek. NAMCOL is a government distance learning and tutoring program that helps students who fail the exams that allow them to finish secondary school or apply for university to get back on track. They produce study materials so good that not only remedial students but standard classrooms use them, and they are one of the Namibian publishers who are contributing textbooks to the MCC program.
I sat with the Director General of Namibia's Planning Commission, Tom Alweendo, their Minister of Education, Abraham Iyambo, and our Ambassador to Namibia G. Dennise Mathieu under a banner with the Namibian MCA's mission statement: Poverty Reduction Through Economic Growth. That vision perfectly encapsulates our goals for America's on-going partnerships with Africa.
The highlight of the transfer ceremony was undoubtedly Lydia Iita, a student leader from Hage Geingob High School, one of the schools that will soon be taking delivery of new textbooks thanks to this Millennium Challenge Account project. Her self-confidence and enthusiasm were infectious as she told all the others students attending the event that they should treasure and preserve these books. I also had the opportunity to meet Dr. Geingob at a reception at Ambassador Mathieu's residence. He was Namibia's first Prime Minister from independence in March 1990 to 2002, and is currently Minister of Trade and Industry. It's interesting to be in a country so young that it has the chance to honor its freedom struggle heroes while they are still alive.
What made the book event special, as CEO Penny Akwenye pointed out several times during the ceremony, was that it was an event where seeing was believing, where concrete copies of the books about to be delivered could be touched and read by the students, staff and distinguished guests who attended.
Earlier in the day, President Pohamba opened our meeting by thanking the United States for its many contributions to Namibia since independence, from landmine disposal to ARV delivery. I was proud to represent a country which, partnered with the government of the republic of Namibia, has been able to offer so many tangible benefits to its citizens over the last twenty years.
Read Under Secretary Burns' previous entry from Liberia.