Some students from Zimbabwe have requested that universities in Namibia grant them more time to register due to the internet shutdown in their country and delayed departures.
The country has experienced social unrest over the past few weeks after mass protests against fuel price increases prompted Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangangwa to switch off internet connections last week.
Yesterday, some students in Windhoek said they had received news from home that the internet was restored after Zimbabwe's high court ordered the country's government to restore the internet.
Media24 this week reported that Zimbabwe's government closed the internet for much of last week. Over the weekend, it restored it partially, but kept a blackout on social media apps like Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter.
Some Zimbabwean students studying in Namibia have cited hyperinflation and the inability to access the internet as some of the reasons why they cannot register on time this week. "It is really tough for many zimbos [Zimbabweans] to come back because of the inflation, and also trying to make it within a few days left to come and register to school [sic]," a Zimbabwean national said on social media regarding their return to Namibia.
Another student who spoke to The Namibian yesterday on condition of anonymity said some students had already returned to Namibia for their studies as early as possible and have managed to register, while others were still trying to do so. Universities normally charge a penalty fee for late registration, apart from the fixed registration fee.
The Namibia University of Science and Technology's spokesperson Kuda Brandt said on Monday that the university's registrar, Moss Garde, said they were monitoring the situation in Zimbabwe, and could not comment any further on the matter.
Unam's public relations officer, John Haufiku, said they have been receiving requests by some class representatives of students in Zimbabwe to extend their registration time, but that the university was still contemplating how to proceed. "They have been asking not to pay the late registration fee due to delayed departures, the violence, and the increases in fuel prices and public mayhem making it costly for them to travel," he said. Haufiku added that another factor could be that the students were afraid of travelling, depending on where they were in their country.
He had asked those with such requests to communicate directly to the pro-vice chancellor.
"We sympathise with the difficult situation our students find themselves in. We have not really taken a decision yet.
We have to consider the consequences, especially considering they are the second-largest [student] group of international students.
What does this mean for the registration officials; how does it impact classes?" he said.
Last year, Unam had 613 students from Zimbabwe alone.
Haufiku said 14% of that population is expected to graduate this year, while for the 2019 academic year, Unam was expecting at least 550 students from Zimbabwe.