Windhoek — To date the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) has recovered about N$77 million against the expected recoverable amount of N$698 million.
This was revealed by Olavi Hamwele, NSFAF's chief human capital and corporate affairs officer in an interview with New Era, after the 2018 NSFAF online application process officially launched yesterday.
He said although the cumulative dispensed amount is N$4.5 billion to date, it should be noted that not all amounts dispensed are recoverable, saying some were grants, contributions to bilateral or multilateral scholarships, solidarity scholarships, NSFAF special initiatives or co-funding.
The Fund hired a South African company called New Integrated Credit Solutions (NICS) and a Namibian company called Tribesmen Investment as debt collectors to help track down graduates who had avoided paying back the NSFAF loans.
He however said the recovery process is moving slowly because files that are manual are being converted into electronic versions, while others are irrecoverable due to missing relevant information about beneficiaries.
NSFAF awarded study loans to a total of 15,000 students out of the 25,000 applicants who applied for financial aid last year.
The aim of the online application launch is to enable prospective students, who have met the tertiary level entry requirement, to apply for funding. The online registration starts today (January 12) and will end on February 28.
Hamwele also cleared a public misconception, saying it is not true that once a student receives an acknowledgement letter it automatically means he or she has been awarded a loan or grant from NSFAF.
"We don't guarantee acknowledgement letters will be accepted by institutions. We want to improve the system. People were not uploading the required documents. People become reluctant and comfortable once they are at universities. Hence this year we took a decision not to continue with the awarding if required documents are not submitted," Hamwele explained.
He added that NSFAF would not be held liable if a person who received an "acknowledgement" did not get a loan, which he says could be attributed to many factors such as outstanding required documentation during the online registration process.
Further, he said, this year there will be no preliminary award letters.
NSFAF manager for awards, Alushe Nditya, said students are given ample time to prepare all the required documentation, adding there is no excuse for students not to supply documents at registration on time.
She said the Fund has mobile teams that visit schools countrywide to assist learners with registration.
NSFAF chief operations officer, Dr Eino Mvula, promised that once higher institutions of learning open for the 2018 academic year, the Fund would ensure all outstanding invoices of loan holders are paid.
Hamwele explained that since the Fund moved away from the manual application process, the electronic system has speeded up the awarding of loans.
He said NSFAF can also not intervene or force higher institutions of learning to register students with acknowledgement letters, saying such a decision lies with the institution.
Initially, he said, the Fund used to print about 55,000 application forms, which cost NSFAF about N$250,000 annually to produce.
Prior to the introduction of the online application system, Hamwele said, they experienced delays, errors and unnecessary workload, as well as frustration, due to massive manual processing. He added that this ran into some N$700,000 in overtime claims annually.
Hamwele also said NSFAF did not formally receive any communication regarding the mooted idea that it be integrated back to the ministry of higher education.
This follow months marred by a strained relationship between NSFAF management and its board, which resulted in President Hage Geingob intervening last year and deciding that the Fund return to the ministry of higher education, as was previously the case.
The institution has been marred by a tainted relationship between its CEO Hilya Nghiwete and the board chair Patty Karuaihe-Martin.