23 May 2019

Namibia: Govt to Discuss Students' Funding

THE finance minsitry will hold a press conference today to discuss the situation at the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund and other issues.

The Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) said in a statement on Monday that out of the 15 087 students who have met the minimum requirements for funding, only 2 925 - which is less than 20% - will receive funding this academic year.

Finance ministry executive director Ericah Shafudah said on Tuesday that the issue is one of those to be discussed today.

The Popular Democratic Movement vice president Jennifer van den Heever yesterday said the government has failed to prioritise the needs of students.

Van den Heever said during a press conference held in Windhoek yesterday that the ruling party was not committed to the many promises it made, which included free and affordable education.

"There is a clear indication of maladministration, corruption and incompetence in both the government and the funding institution. The government has failed to prioritise the needs of students, and of young people in general," she added.

She noted that the government had prioritised the spending of N$200 million on building NSFAF offices, and then failed to make president Hage Geingob's dream of turning all loans into grants a reality.

"How is it possible that we have a financial institution that could not forecast or estimate the size of the expected intake for this academic year? How is it also that the government made such a regrettable budget allocation that would accommodate only less than 20% of this year's intake? What informed this budget allocation?" she questioned.

She thus called for a system which allows the government to determine or at least estimate the amounts needed for the following year, especially for continuing students.

Van den Heever also urged the government to bail out the students' fund, even if it means resorting to using the state's contingency fund.

"There are so much allocations to things which are not so important. We have a contingency fund, and the government should bail out the students by using the contingency fund since it is there for non-priority areas," she observed.

The PDM vice president further noted that every year, universities increase their tuition fees, which means that amounts paid by NSFAF to cover for tuition are used up, leaving students with mere pennies to fend for themselves.

"We have also not forgotten that NSFAF paid more than N$200 million since 2014 in tuition fees for medical graduates at foreign universities that are neither vetted nor recognised by the Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA)," she continued.

Theses payouts are said to have been made at time when the students' fund did not have a proper funding policy in place.

"Every single parent sends their children to school, with the thought that if they receive an education, they will surely plough back. This, however, has not been the case, as our young people graduate into debt and unemployment," she said, adding that the value of their qualifications becomes diluted because of a stubborn status quo, and because of the government's failure to prioritise.

Van den Heever stated that they will sit down with NSFAF's management, the Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) and the students representative councils (SRCs) of various institutions in order to look for solutions.

"Should we not reach any conclusion, we are ready to rally behind the students of this country, whatever approach they may deem fit, whether it is legal or otherwise," she said.

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