Windhoek — Higher education minister Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi yesterday said it was unreasonable for Namibians to demand salary hikes at a time when the country faces serious economic challenges.
Kandjii-Murangi said this in response to questions by New Era on the ongoing strike at the University of Namibia (Unam) that lasted for more than a week, with no end in sight. Unam employees, including lecturers and supervisors, last week Monday embarked on a nationwide strike, demanding a six percent salary increase backdated to January this year. Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) and the university were by late yesterday locked in lengthy meetings to try and hammer out a consensus. Unam spokesperson Edwin Tjiramba told New Era that the media will be briefed about the outcome of the meeting once they are done.
"I think it is important for all of our institutions and all of our agencies to really understand the fact that, you know, no one is joking or playing some kind of hide and seek game when we say that the economic downturn that, which is global, has not spared Namibia," she said.
"Namibia is affected just like all other countries and I think we all need to tighten our belts and make sure that we actually continue to do more with less."
The Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) leadership recently announced its support for the university nationwide industrial action.
In a media statement, Nanso president Ester Simon said the organisation indicated it has been monitoring the situation on the ground and was seriously concerned about the impact of the strike on student welfare.
Nanso says the strike means administrative and academic services are being disrupted at the expense of students.
"For instance, the start of the examinations on the 29th and 30th of October 2018 began extremely late due to a challenge of absent examination officers, absent invigilators and delayed examination scripts," Simon said.
"With the absence of lecturers, most students are denied their right to consult and seek clarity on examination questions; students are denied their full rights to study until late as the library services were shut early in the afternoon; no payments are being processed at the admin and finance office."
More so, it referred to a notification that the Unam Otjiwarongo exams centre will be closed for the duration of the strike, stating: "This has a negative effect on the students as now their exams are postponed to the special/supplementary period."
Additionally, "we are also informed that the current high school learners have not been admitted to the university because of the strike. A process which initially by now should have been completed."
But in full support of the strike, Simon said: "Before we are students, we are first part and parcel of the broader community, from which we understand and share a clear background, for the very workers are our parents, guardians and breadwinners at home."