12 January 2018

Namibia: No Fee Guarantee From NSFAF

MOST students who received letters of acknowledgement from the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund might not register at their chosen tertiary institutions because there is no guarantee of funding.

The fund's chief human capital and corporate affairs officer, Olavi Hamwele, said yesterday that although they were giving out acknowledgement letters, there was no guarantee of loan application approvals.

"It will then depend on the institutions themselves whether they will register the students or not," he said during the launch of the online application link in Windhoek.

Over 55 000 application forms were produced at the cost of N$250 000 until 2017. Of the 55 000 forms, NSFAF said they manually managed 24 000 applications, and awarded 7 800 applicants with letters.

Hamwele added that NSFAF faced challenges with the preliminary award letters, with many students making noise whenever they did not receive funding, while they had even submitted incomplete applications.

He also said various institutions are aware of the move to use the acknowledgement letter for registration purposes.

This will leave students at the mercy of tertiary institutions, who will have to choose to either register them without the security of a loan, or face losses.

The acknowledgement letter comes as part of the entity's new online application system, which churns out acknowledgement letters for each applicant.

This letter replaces the preliminary approval letter that students were getting in the past and used as security for funding for their studies.

This revelation was made at the official launch of the online application system, which will run between 12 January and 28 February.

Hamwele said the online application process will minimise the amount of money used in overtime, which has so far amounted to N$700 000, as well as delays, errors and frustrations due to manual processing.

Hamwele said the other positive thing for the SOE is that the online application has information of Grade 12 applicants since 2012, and can upon application built a profile of the undergraduate students until they graduate, making it easier to recover the loans.

"The company has been able to recover N$4 million plus since 2014," he noted.

The parastatal has had trouble accounting for money that has gone missing, and had been unable to explain a month ago to the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts why N$1,8 billion of student debt was written off.

Hamwele said NSFAF would also conduct visits from today onwards to all regions and 18 campuses to assist with the application process until 28 February 2018.

The online application process has been in existence since 2016, but used on a pilot basis by a few students before it was extended to the regions.

Alushe Nditya, NSFAF's manager of awards demonstrated the application process, while pointing out the need to use PDFs as attachments as the system only recognises PDFs.

She said the system also allows applicants to choose what type of funding they want to apply for, as "some students only need a certain type of funding."

Last year, President Hage Geingob expressed his desire to demote NSFAF to being a directorate under the higher education ministry.

Hamwele refused to answer questions in this regard, referring them all to the higher education ministry.

"There was no formal communication from the secretary to Cabinet, or the higher education ministry. Based on that, we felt all those questions should be referred to them," he stated.

The University of Namibia's spokesperson, Simeon Namesho, and Kuda Brandt of the Namibia University of Science and Technology, were unreachable for comment.

However, sources at Unam said the university was not happy about having to take in students without being sure of funding.


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