Student debts continue to be a burning issue for the country’s second largest university, a situation that has prompted NUST’s bursar Mamijoo Tjejamba to request the leadership of the institution to appoint a new debt collection agency.An official document seen by The Patriot shows that Tjejamba earlier this month wrote to NUST vice chancellor Professor Tjama Tjivikua requesting the university’s executive committee to approve VeriCred Collections as its new debt collection agency and the handing over of the 2015 student debt that currently stands at N$11.8 million.Tjejamba explained that it is necessary to find a new agency because the current agency – Revenue Solutions Namibia (RSN) – had declined in performance.
“We made an assessment on the performance of RSN for the periods 1997-2014 and we have noticed a clear decline in its performance. To date, the current debt handed over to RSN is over N$48 million, with only N$6.5 million collected in the eight years,” she said. Tjejamba also indicated that RSN charges commission between 15 percent and 38 percent, depending on the age of the debt. “Additionally, they have other charges like telephone charges and others, which are passed on to the students. Their system is not compatible with ITS and all payments are usually processed manually one month in arrears,” she said.“We found out from the local institutions on how they dealt with their debts and who was handling their debt collection function. We came across VeriCred Collections, a well-established debt collecting company mostly in South Africa and which joined the Namibian market about three years ago,” said Tjejamba in the submission made to Exco.
Responding to questions posed regarding the bursar’s proposal, NUST’s Director for Marketing and Communication, Kaitira Kandjii, said: “Student debt, as is tuition fees, is an item on the agenda of the institution at the relevant platforms, annually.“Ethics in general, not only from the practice of media law, would dictate that the institution would be first given the opportunity to consult and implement the recommendations of legally constituted organisations of the institution,” said Kandjii when asked if Tjivikua is aware of the performance of the current debt collection agency used by NUST.
It could not be ascertained if the Exco has met to discuss the recommendation the bursar made on 3 August 2016. VeriCred currently handles the debt collections of several South African universities as well as the University of Namibia. Its list of clients are universities such as the Tswane University of Technology, JSE-listed retailers such as the Foschini Group, medical institutions such as Ampath and Medicross and the provincial administrations of the Western Cape and Mpumalanga provinces. “Their accounting system can interface with ITS, which means that NUST student accounts can be updated by an upload from their system,” she motivated.
Student debt continues to hamper the operations of Namibia’s two public universities.New Era recently reported that the University of Namibia (Unam) finds itself in a financial predicament with student debt standing at an unprecedented N$255 million for 2016 alone.While for NUST, the current active debt on NUST’s books stands at N$149 million. Of this amount, N$126.8 million is owed by students currently registered and N$ 22.2 million owed by students who have not re-registered for this academic year.
“Students registered for the current second semester have settled their outstanding debts; any deviation is being attended to.
One such way of addressing this challenge is handing over the debt to an efficient debt collecting company. This is standard procedure for any institution when faced with such challenges,” Kandjii said.