…State sponsored students face bleak future
Increasing student loans, anxiety over exams and uncertainty over their future: no wonder students funded by the state feel neglected and dumped.
In the midst of a cash crunch at the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF), president of Student Representative Council at the Triumphant College believes that the youth are no longer a priority for the government as was once envisioned in 2004 when President Nujoma launched Vision 2030.
A frustrated Wilbard Kangwiya made these remarks during an attempt by students from various higher learning institutions to shut-down NSFAF’s offices in the capital on Wednesday.
“Until now, students don’t have taxi money. They are being evicted from places where they are renting. They don’t have books and have not printed their time-tables because their accounts have been blocked due to their unpaid accounts.
If this day fails, we will be held accountable by our students,” said Kangwiya before comparing NSFAF’s ailing financial state to the failed SME Bank and the Road Contractor Company (RCC) where liquidation is imminent.
He said: “This is how corruption is taking place. We are just here quiet and the next thing we will hear is that NSFAF is being shut down because there are no funds. We don’t want such things to happen anymore. We are tired of corruption.”
While NSFAF attempted to shift blame to government, the finance ministry refused to take the blame for the funding troubles. The ministry accused NSFAF of over-committing.
NSFAF funds about 5000 students more than the number of students budgeted for. This effectively means that excess spending is well over N$330 million for the current financial year.
Finance PS Ericah Shafudah said it received a request from the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation to release N$300 million for NSFAF. Surprisingly, the request was made on the day that students demonstrated at NSFAF’s headquarters. She said the funds will be paid today. Kangwiya went on to question the inclusivity mantra of ‘Harambee’ in which he feels the youth have been side-lined.
Shafudah also accused NSFAF of misleading the public with the figures it released this week.
According to Shafudah, NSFAF has only been allocated N$962 million for the current financial year, but figures released by the funding body indicates that the total funds requested to date totals N$2.7 billion.
“What is the meaning of Harambee? We feel left out. In 2004, Namibia adopted Vision 2030. And the former President, Dr Sam Nujoma said and I quote “it[Vision 2030] must focus on education. They must invest in education and the youth are the leaders of tomorrow. How are we going to lead without being included?” “How are we going to lead? If you go into offices, all deputies are seniors. All ministers are seniors. We are here today[Wednesday], if anything is to happen, I am prepared to go to prison for my students that they may enjoy the fruits of their parents’ blood. Both my mother and father fought for the independence of this country. But after 27 years of independence, I’ve never enjoyed fruits from their struggle.”
NSFAF has failed to pay the tuition and non-tuition fees for most of their beneficiaries in 2016.
On Wednesday, over 200 students from the Namibia University of Science and Technology, University of Namibia, International University of Management, the Institution of Bankers and Triumphant College marched and occupied the NSFAF’s offices in the capital to air their frustrations over delays in the disbursement of study loans. Throughout the demonstration, the students could be heard chanting NSFAF’s chief executive officer’s (CEO) name : “Hilya Nghiwete”, “we want our money” and “we are students and we have dignity”.
NSFAF’s staff, who were clearly worried that the situation could get out of hand could be seen standing in agony through the locked glass doors.
The students demanded to see Nghiwete and “not her cleaners”, a phrase that was used to refer to NSFAF’s management team.
The situation is so dire that several universities have refused to allow students to sit for the year-end examinations due to their outstanding accounts. Most of these students are NSFAF loan holders. When asked why the fund has failed to release funds to its beneficiaries, acting NSFAF CEO, Olavi Hamwele replied: “Because of the economic situation of the country.” NSFAF has since promised to engage all institutions to ensure that all students are allowed to sit for their examinations while the student fund sorts out its finances. More so, NSFAF is awaiting funds from Treasury, which will be used to settle at least 50% of the outstanding tuition fees.
NSFAF also committed, without specification that it will make a contribution towards the non-tuition fees of students.
Non-tuition fees are meant to cater of for the basic needs of students. These includes transport, accommodation, toiletries and stationery. The students also demanded that NSFAF discontinues its agreement with Namic Financial Solution.
Last year, NSFAF outsourced the administration and money management functions to Nam-mic when it changed its funding model for local institutions from the traditional fixed rate.
The students argued that the bureaucratic agreement between NSFAF and NAMIC is just another schemes created with sinister motives as it does not serve its intended purpose.
To this call, however, NSFAF was adamant that its agreement with NAMIC be respected. The agreement runs out next year.
According to Hamwele, the fund had requested N$630 million from Treasury this month, but has only received N$43 million to date.