19 June 2012

Namibian Students in Russia, Cuba Taken Care of

The deputy Minister of Education, David Namwandi, says Namibian students studying in Cuba and Russia receive sufficient support from the host countries as well as the ministry.

Responding to reports in the local media which claimed that Namibian students in Cuba are turning to sex work to supplement their income, Namwandi last week in Parliament said both the Namibian and Cuban governments provide enough support to these students.

The Cuban government provides each Namibian student with tuition fees, accommodation, and 100 pesos per month for toiletries and other contingencies.

The Namibian government, under the Namibia Student Financial Assistant Fund (NSFAF), provides a monthly stipend of US$300 for three years, irrespective of the field of study.

Medical students in Cuba get an additional US$375 per month from their fourth study year.

Namwandi said the NSFAF paid the monthly stipend due to the students on May 15. This payment was for the period of April 1 to August 31.

Namwandi said contrary to media reports, students in Cuba do not receive their payments later than those in other countries.

"It is most unfortunate for our students to claim that they have now turned to prostitution to survive," the irate minister said.

"This is not only an insult to the government and the people of Namibia, but a sign of ungratefulness to the friendly nations such as Cuba who generously contribute to the education of our students. We just hope this situation will not repeat itself one day, as the Ministry of Education has declared zero tolerance for this unwarranted behaviour."

The minister advised Namibian students planning to study in Russia next year to apply this year already, adding that all applications for this year were received last year and have already been processed.

No further applications will be considered.

Namwandi said some students have received admission to universities in Europe in June, and want to pay for their studies without even applying for financial assistance from the ministry.

In some of these cases, students were admitted to universities, but they failed to apply for financial assistance, and once these students arrive at the universities, they put pressure on the education ministry to grant them loans.

"This is unacceptable," stressed Namwandi.

The approval of loans and scholarships for those who want to study in Russia is finalised in April each year.

The loan amount is then paid to the Russian Embassy after students have signed the appropriate contracts and submitted proof of registration at tertiary institutions.

Until proof of registration is received, the education ministry cannot make the payment, Namwandi said.

"Previous experience has proven that some students received loans but never used the money for studies; instead, it was used for pleasure, including travelling, drinking, and in some cases, they engage in criminal activities," Namwandi said.

This year's payments to students in Russia were made on June 14.

The ministry received 40 000 applications for study loans for the 2012/13 financial year.

Namwandi acknowledged that some students have "misbehaved" in foreign countries, and this was dealt with quietly.

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