In 1979, SWAPO (South West African People’s Organisation) requested that the Commonwealth Secretariat and International Extension College (IEC) draw up a plan for a Namibian Extension Unit (NEU). Soon afterwards, the NEU was established and operated from Zambia for those Namibians in exile.
In the period before 1990, the Department of National Education (DNE) of the former dispensation provided Distance Education (DE) courses for teachers. After Independence in 1990, NEU and DNE distance education units were united to become the Department of Adult and Non-Formal Education within the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC).
The Core Planning Group was established in 1991 and they contributed towards the production of the Report of the Commission on Higher Education, which endorsed the establishment of a distance education college. The MEC five-year plan also assigned a significant role to distance education. "Taking Education to the People" was a report written at this time that recommended the establishment of a semi-autonomous Distance Education College. The establishment of this College gained the approval of the MEC in 1993.
"Taking Education to the People"
This statement became the famous NAMCOL slogan.
In 1994, the Interim Development Board was appointed by the Minister to assist in planning for the establishment of the College through an act of Parliament. The new structure was to be named the Namibian College of Open Learning (NAMCOL) with a remit for both distance education and face-to-face components of the Ministry's continuing education programme.
It was then that the Directorate of Adult and Continuing Education (within the Ministry of Basic Education and Culture) was separated into two directorates: Directorate of Adult Education (DABE) and NAMCOL.
Directorate of Adult and Continuing Education
In 1995, APSO provided a full time, in-country technical adviser to assist in preparations for the transition. UK ODA also supported a short-term consultancy by IEC to draft a funding proposal for a staff development programme. The NAMCOL staff produced a strategic development plan, logo, new structure and staff establishment for the College between 1995 and 1997.
The first Director of NAMCOL, Mrs Frances Ferreira was appointed in 1996, and served for ten years as the head of the institute. During this time the UK ODA funded a contract for the NAMCOL-Bath Partnership project. A technical adviser was appointed to assist with staff development for distance learning materials development and production. The NAMCOL Bill was then introduced to the National Assembly.
Founding Director of NAMCOL,
Frances Ferreira (nee, Mensah)
In 1997 the negotiations with the staff to translate the College from the Ministry to a new body commenced. The proposed Bill proceeded through all the stages of Parliament and on the 25th of September 1997 the NAMCOL Act (Act no. 1 of 1997) came into effect. It was then that the Interim Development Board was appointed as the first Board of Governors of NAMCOL.
On the 1st of April 1998, NAMCOL separated from the Ministry and the NAMCOL staff was formally appointed. The NAMCOL senior management then developed a new Strategic Plan. Training in Change Management took place at the head office and regions and an extension to the NAMCOL-Bath Partnership Project commenced with emphasis on planning and management development.
NAMCOL opened a Resource Centre at the Yetu Yama Centre to provide access to learning materials needed for local NAMCOL learners in March 1999.