Collaborations – Labour Research and Resource Institute (LaRRI), Namibia

Collaborations – Labour Research and Resource Institute (LaRRI), Namibia

GRADUATION CEREMONY, NAMIBIA, 30 AUGUST 2013

LABOUR STUDIES DIPLOMA: LABOUR RESEARCH AND RESOURCE INSTITUTE (LaRRI), NAMIBIA: CLASS OF 2013

The Workers’ College attended the graduation ceremony of the LaRRI Labour Studies Diploma – class of 2013.

Though LaRRI is a research organisation in Namibia, they have always displayed a keen interest in Worker Education. The Workers’ College, always worked closely with LaRRI in education programmes both locally and on the continent but a special collaboration between the College, LaRRI and the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) was formed 11 years ago and this resulted in the Labour Studies Diploma of LaRRI being accredited through the College by the UKZN – read more in the Speech delivered by Comrade Herbert Jauch

The speeches delivered by the other two guest speakers as well as the director of LaRRI, with regard to the current state of worker education, and also making reference to cross-border education, have been included below.

Keynote address by Honourable Alpheus Muheua, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, at the occasion of the LaRRI certificate in labour Graduation Ceremony at the Polytechnic Hotel School, Windhoek, 30 August 2013.

The LaRRI board of trustees, the director of LaRRI, Comrade Hilma Shindondola-Mote, the director of the Worker’s College, Comrade Kessie Moodley, leaders of the different trade unions represented here and your members-members of the media, dear graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I was very happy to receive this invitation to attend the LaRRI graduation ceremony for the certificate in labour studies. LaRRI has provided and continue to provide inspiration as an institution of note in Namibia. LaRRI has become known as a path-breaking institution in the area of labour research and education for workers and their trade unions. I therefore strongly believe that LaRRI should be encouraged to continue doing what they are doing. I am saying this for the following reasons:

• Comrades, with the achievement of independence the focus of trade unions shifted to playing the role accorded to them through the tripartite structures. Such a role requires not only a militant approach to worker’s issues, but an attitude of service delivery that is anchored in theoretical understanding;
• As government we are aware that during our early years of independence, Namibian trade unions received significant support from the international donor community especially the Scandinavian countries for workers education and training;
• Such support assisted in the broader education programs of the trade unions;
• However, with the advent of new development classifications based primarily on the Gross Domestic Income of the Country, Namibia has lost support because of the its international status of the ‘middle income country’;
• Such classification has affected the ability of the trade union movement to effectively recruit, organise and hence educate its members;
• Education structures existed and we even had educator’s forums, but such structures have increasingly become dormant;
• We are also aware that contemporary trade unions are confronted with a host of old and new challenges. They have to contend with mass unemployment, widespread exploitation at the work place due to new forms of employment especially labour hire and sub-contracting;
• It is due to all these challenges that union education programmes are needed to equip workers to actively participate in their unions and broader society;
• It is no longer sufficient to just deal with traditional union role related topics such as collective bargaining, health and safety or labour law, but trade unionists need to understand the broader structural issues that affects their role

Perusing through the LaRRI curriculum, the content seem very exciting since it includes topics such as trade union history, Namibia’s political economy, labour law and collective bargaining, affirmative action and gender, trade union development and globalization. These broad ranges of topics are useful in equipping workers to confront the challenges they face today, both in their unions and in society in general.

The Theme for this year is: ‘Tackling exclusion and restoring social and economic justice through labour education’.

I think this theme is so befitting. Namibian workers due to their contribution to the liberation struggle were strategically excluded from educational opportunities. The course that LaRRI offers therefore tries to close that gap that was created over centuries of colonialism and apartheid. Through that, LaRRI is assisting the government in restoring much needed social and economic justice which our workers were stripped off and denied.

I was also reliably informed that LaRRI is now collaborating with the University of Namibia since the beginning of 2009 in workers education. There is a new course introduced called ‘Employment and labour studies’, coordinated by LaRRI and the University of Namibia. The first group of students graduated in April this year. Dear Students, you have a unique opportunity to further your studies up to whatever level in employment and labour issues at the University of Namibia.

I must congratulate LaRRI for ensuring that the certificate was officially accredited by the National Qualifications Authority (NQA) in 2008. More importantly, it is the only education program in the country that deals with topics from a labour perspective and with the overall aim to assist workers to shape their own destiny through strong, democratic and accountable trade unions.

Comrades, labour education is different from the pure academic education carried out at universities, or that done for, or by representatives of capital. Labour education is informed by the struggles and experiences of the working people. It is shaped by their values and principles and their world view, which is different from that of capital. While labour is the primary source of value, predating capital and being responsible for its creation, workers however remain vulnerable and undervalued. Hence the need to untangle the paradox that while Africa is the richest continent in the world, Africans are the poorest.

Workers are the creators of wealth and hence need to play a critical role in the next phase of our liberation-which is the economic liberation struggle. Considering the vast resources of the African continent and of Namibia in particular, there is no reason why the majority of our people should languish in poverty.

Labour education graduates therefore should continuously seeks to understand the underlying causes of the deprivation of labour; the existence of abject poverty amidst plenty; the uneven distribution of resources and income. Apply the knowledge you have gained, because what you learned is not knowledge for its own sake-but knowledge geared towards empowering workers to assist us as the government to overcome our sustainable development dilemma – it is action-oriented education.

On behalf of the Minister of Labour and the whole Ministry and indeed on my own behalf, we join all of you in congratulating LaRRI and all the graduates in their achievement.

Viva LaRRI, Viva the labour movement in Namibia, Viva the labour movement in Africa, Viva workers solidarity across the continent, and indeed the whole world! Forward with Workers Struggles, Forward with workers Victories!

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Speech by Kessie Moodley, Director of the Workers’ College
LaRRI graduation ceremony for the certificate in Labour Studies.
Theme: ‘Tackling exclusion and restoring social and economic justice through labour education’
Date: Friday, 30 August 2013.

‘Cross-border labour education collaboration: what value does it hold?
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Graduating students, Comrade Alpheus Muheaua (Deputy Minister, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare), Guest Speakers, LaRRI Chair, Director, Members of the LaRRI Board, Programme Directors, Comrades, families & friends,
There is a Namibian proverb that says, “Learning expands great souls”, and I have been asked to speak about ‘Cross-border labour education collaboration: what value does it hold?’- so with this celebration of awarding this diploma, the souls of the graduates have expanded across the continent to a sun-soaked beach city called Durban, where both the Workers’ College and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) are located.

Thus, our souls are linked, tied to the labour education project, which exists both at LaRRI & the Workers’ College and that seeks to develop our working class consciousness to realise that it is the only the working class that can set the working class free!
But this link has many other elements to it, some technical, some political, some social, some personal.
What are the technical elements to this collaboration, and here I must tender the apologies of Dr Thandi Magojo who is the Moderator of the examinations, and who sends her congratulations and best wishes to all:-

i. The moderation of the examination papers and scripts reflect that the quality of the education is at a post-school, and in some instances, 2nd & 3rd year-level university standard;
ii. The certificate that will be awarded today is regarded as an entrance qualification into the university, well at least the UKZN, which of course claims that it is the leading university on the continent;
iii. Through such accreditation, which is a tri-organisational arrangement, both LaRRI and the Workers’ College, which are labour education organisations, are recognised as education organisations on par with main-stream education institutions;

What are the political elements to this collaboration:-

i. The diploma develops the organisational capacity thus strengthening the ability of the organisation to engage with, analyse, develop responses to various issues from globalisation to shop floor matters;
ii. This places our organisations in a fairly strong position – but that is only if they make effective use of such capacity and knowledge and do not feel threatened by this! We have had experiences at the Workers’ College where diploma graduates have been side-lined and even dismissed from their organisations because of their views;
iii. We must therefore reflect on the type of education that is delivered by LaRRI; for it to be recognised, accredited, and respected as a working class education organisation, its education must be independent, analytical, critical and progressive – not only education organisations, but all organisations of the working class must be fiercely independent, self-critical and able to contribute constructively and progressively to a new society as social change agents!
iv. While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.” – Thomas Sankara

What are the social elements to this collaboration:-

i. We are building a society that is egalitarian, that speaks to a reality where the vast majority, if not all the people, participate in, share in and contribute to their equal well-being and self-respect, with values of collectivism and love;
ii. Our outlook must be anti-sexist, anti-racist, and reflect values that are collective and not individual, which then impacts on our constituencies as we are considered leaders; we must set the example, but also be conscious that we will make mistakes (Vavi);

What are the personal elements to this collaboration:-

i. This must be reflected in not only how we run organisations but also how we ourselves embrace these principles & values – so that we do not advance our own egos, or desires for self-accumulation, or the greed for power;
ii. By getting this certificate, we must be humbled, as the education that you received could not be available to the thousands you serve – you represent them and now you must share this experience with them in a humble manner for education teaches us humility not arrogance!
iii. But also, remember the sacrifices that your family has made – so go back and show them how you have befitted for the greater good.

Finally, let me touch on the issue of funding these programmes of ours. For many years we received funding from international donors, and as a the years went by, we found that such funding, which initially was based on solidarity, slowly turned into determining what our agenda should be, how we should run our programmes, what our focus should be, and how we should account.

Since 2001 to-date, the Workers’ College has been funded by our own democratic government, through a fund called, Strengthening Civil Society Fund, which supports the building of capacities within trade unions and community organisations. The principle behind this Fund is that social partners must all have equal capacity so that they can contribute to an equitable society. In addition, the money is from the taxes collected from workers as citizens and therefore it must be ploughed back for their benefit. Such financial support has no strings attached, except to account properly and transparently.

From last year we also have been receiving support from the national Skills Funds, and I now implore the Honourable Deputy Minister to do the same and provide support for the civil society organisations especially LaRRI.

The value of this cross-border education is that we become one, no political boundaries, and a shared vision for our countries our region, our continent – for the graduates of the diploma at Workers’ College have also gone thru’ what you have!

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Tackling exclusion and promoting social and economic justice through labour education:
The 11 Year Journey

Prepared by Herbert Jauch for the
Graduation of LaRRI’s Labour Studies Course

30 August 2013

In 2002, the Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI) introduced a new worker education programme, which became initially known as the labour diploma course. As a labour-based research and education institute, LaRRI noticed that worker education in Namibia was very limited, consisting basically of short-term on-the-job training at various workplaces and of short workshops (usually 2-5 days) offered by Namibian trade unions to their members. Both initiatives focus rather narrowly on specific skills and topics. Furthermore, these initiatives where not recognised outside the workplace or the trade union structures.

LaRRI thus sought to broaden the scope and improve the quality of worker education programmes by providing a course that combines knowledge acquisition and analytical skills and thus serves to strengthen the capacity of workers and their trade unionists. We investigated other worker education programmes in the SADC region and noticed the diploma courses that were offered by the Workers’ College in Durban, South Africa in collaboration with the University of KwaZulu-Natal. These courses provided a kind of “model” for LaRRI’s labour diploma course and the support we received from the Workers’ College, especially it director Kessie Moodley, enabled us to start a similar course in Namibia. It soon became so popular that it became one of LaRRI’s flagship programmes. It serves to prepare workers and trade unionists for leadership positions at various levels and consists of 6 modules, whose contents are determined in consultation with Namibia’s trade unions.

Over the past 11 years, the labour diploma course was attended by trade unionists active at various levels (ranging from shop stewards to general secretaries) that have at least a grade 10 or equivalent education. Each course accommodated about 25 – 35 people and LaRRI tried to ensure equal gender representation by reserving up to 50% of all places available for women. The course’s overall aim was to strengthen the participants’ ability to contribute to the building of the labour movement in Namibia and almost 200 trade unionists have successfully completed the course to date.

Historically, Namibian workers were largely excluded from formal education, especially at higher education levels. This often served to justify starvation wages and the continuous exploitation of labour. Regarding LaRRI’s course, the students enquired about its recognition as they had invested effort and energy and had sharpened their analytical and writing skills. LaRRI therefore approached the Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA) and was awarded accreditation in 2007. Since then, the certificate that LaRRI’s successful students receive is formally recognised as a university certificate and it is listed on the Namibia Qualifications Framework. Thus worker education was for the first time recognised at national level. This not only encouraged our students but also opened the doors for further studies.

Course contents
In terms of course contents, LaRRI tried to combine aspects that were identified as critical for trade unionists today. These included the history of the labour movement, the relationship between unions and politics, the question of worker control, gender equality, labour law, economic policy options etc. A central and cross-cutting issue was social and economic justice which is not only a Namibian challenge but a global one in the face of a crisis-ridden global capitalist system that widens inequality and results in mass unemployment and poverty in many parts of the world. Understanding why this is happening and what would be possible remedies and alternatives thus is critical for trade unionist today.

In addition to the 6 course modules, LaRRI also offers its students voluntary and supplementary courses to enhance very practical skills. One of them is the 3-4 days writing skills course and the other one is the introductory computer classes at the Namibia College for Open Learning (NAMCOL).

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Concluding remarks, At the LaRRI graduation and 15th year anniversary celebrations
Hilma Shindondolo-Mote, Director, 30 August 2013
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Indeed, the Labour Resource and Research Institute have come of age-but still a teenager. This 15 year old is amazing though. She has achieved in her short life more than many institutions of pensionable age that I know of. She is the darling of the local media and loved and admired so much in the rest of Africa. She is in the top 3 well known non-governmental organisations in Namibia. At the same-she’s distinct because of her alignment to organised labour and for her focus on evidence-based advocacy and education. In her mere 15 years of existence LaRRI has managed to research on almost 50 topics related to labour, economics and development and the public faith in LaRRI’s unique contribution to labour, economics and development knowledge is not questionable.

Today we should therefore honour the founders of LaRRI for having had the vision and mission to ensure that Namibian workers have access to their own centre of excellence. There is no any other organisation like LaRRI in Namibia and even in the rest of the world. We should all be proud to be associated with this formidable institution that many of us have come to love so deeply-because elsewhere in Africa and other countries beyond, such institutions remains mere dreams. In some cases where they exist, they are just papers in an individual’s suitcase. LaRRI has remained true to its vision and mission has remained visible since day 1 of its establishment. Personally, even before I started working for LaRRI I knew about the organisation and I had nothing else but admiration for it and when I was offered the opportunity to work for her, I knew my life will never be the same again. I am not alone. I know my predecessor and other ex-staff members feel the same.

Of course not all remains glorious. The institute has and continues to experience its fair share of challenges. From being isolated when tackling certain issues to losing funding at a level where it’s becoming clearly unstoppable. The reality therefore is that LaRRI is currently operating on a budget less than half of what the institute use to operate on 5 years ago. Donor fatigue has attacked us in a big way-some have withdrawn completely and yet those that exist have either reduced their funding or their contribution has remain static year in and out. The good news is that the donor fatique is not due to LaRRI’s inadequacies.

So, when next you ask…why is LaRRI not producing research outcomes or not running workshops or even not informing us whether there will be student intake next year? The answer does not lie in the fact that LaRRI does not want to do it. It is a simple, but sad fact. There is no money to do what we want to do. The depressing reality is that LaRRI is on life support machine-a machine which can stop anytime. But rest assured that switching the machine off is no option. We are determined to keep the machine on as long as it takes.

We have to look inward (government and trade unions) to find means on how we can sustain pro-labour research and education in Namibia. We are open to suggestions from everyone here and elsewhere on what we can do together to keep this formidable institution alive. Not everything is about money, but in the capitalist world in which we live, that’s just the way life is organised. For us, even if it is just to volunteer to carry out some educational activities or to propose work-place based training that LaRRI can do for a small fee, we are willing to listen and ready to get our hands dirty to keep alive and do what we do best.

Institutions outlive human beings. I have never heard that institution A is in hospital or died, but humans do and that’s why we should do it for the institution and not for (ourselves) or individuals. It is for the collective good and that’s what matters the most. Before we get bogged up in bad news. Let’s return to the celebrations!

On behalf of the LaRRI staff, we extend our sincere congratulations to the LaRRI board of trustees, management and former staff on LaRRI’s decade and a half anniversary. …our solidarity partners and funders, the trade union leadership, the lecturers, former students, friends and partners, your worthwhile investments in LaRRI has set the foundation for a more stable and flourishing future for the coming generations of trade unions.

To the graduates, we encourage you to take an active role in your trade unions and study further if you wish-but plough back in the easiest way you can. Your dynamism and enthusiasm that you brought along with you to the classes can make a big difference in our country. Your continued support and engagement will be critical to our future success. We hope you will continue to assist us in building LaRRI’s reputation, as people who embody our values and can speak of the merits of LaRRI’s education. If we fail, you have failed too and even worse, we will fail the whole trade union movement and workers in general. ‘Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.’ ~John Dewey

Finally, thank you to our board of trustees especially the board chairperson Comrade Cuana Angula, your deputy Comrade Immaculate Mogotsi and the rest of the team for their continued support and encouragement. Thank you so much to the LaRRI education coordinator, Comrade Herbert Jauch-you have worked tirelessly over the years to ensure that this diploma program is a success.

The teaching staff on the program (Volker Winterfeldt, Marius Kudumo, John Nakuta, Phanuel Kaapama, Herbert Jauch and myself)-thank you very much for your eagerness to share your knowledge with the students. I am sure you all agree that you have also learned from them and not just the other way round.

Our word of appreciation goes to our Comrades and close friends at the Workers’ College, Judy, Kessie, Thandi. Your support and nurturing has been highly appreciated. We hope you continue to do so for centuries.

Comrade Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, – we are grateful to you for always ready to come to our aid whenever we call on you. You will forever remain one of us. To all the performers, sound guys—you were impressive and we look forward to fruitful future exchanges.

Lastly but not least-I would like to thank my LaRRI young and dynamic team-Selma, Offias, Caroline, Lisetha, Delgado, Gwyneth & Patrick. You are so full of soul and hence highly reliable. You have stood the test of time and shown your commitment to LaRRI. I thank you for your hard work, commitment and your willingness to work even over weekends and after hours-at no extra remuneration. This is rare and I really do appreciate that. Let’s continue to show cynics that we can do this!

May this decade and a half turn to more years, decades, and even centuries! Let this celebration afford us a meaningful opportunity to look back over the path we have followed and look ahead to create a future so bright that it shines everywhere where there is a worker in Namibian and beyond. Let’s continue to guide this institution towards its fruitful goals and eagerness and purpose. Together, let’s trek the journey to a brighter future!

Viva Namibian workers Viva, Viva LaRRI viva! Forward with workers struggles, forward!

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