I should acknowledge the fact that I live in a country that offers scholarships and study loans to its citizens, through NSFAF. Over the years, millions of dollars have been spent towards educating many youths, both locally and internationally.
This progressive idea which was meant to create equity to deal with the disadvantages creates by the cruel system of apartheid, is now regressing towards reinventing resource-apartheid.
Over the years, when our economy was booming and we had sufficient resources, the management abused the resources.
It failed to create functional and effective accountability structures. As a result, loan holders disappeared off the records and those in the management helped themselves with the funds. Over time, this cake has been shrinking and instead of addressing the corruption and poor management, the management decided to target the beneficiaries.
Many of these beneficiaries come from poor homes or with parents and guardians whose incomes will never be able to pay even half a semester of tuition.
This institution that should be the foundation for enabling students to have opportunity develop skills through acquisition of tertiary education, is now doing the exact opposite.
Moving toward awarding loans only to those who are studying towards degrees, thus cutting off the huge bulk of students at the bottom, to fend for themselves. But even those who qualify are under threat, the continuous cost cutting is causing constant delays in payments and students going for months without monthly subsidies to meet their basic needs.
We would have believed that the reason for these changes are due to the economic pressure, being experienced nationwide. Unfortunately, NSFAF’s plight started way before our economic woes.
Its current state is but a manifestation of corruption and mismanagement which can no longer hide itself, since the budget cuts and increase in youth seeking financial assistance.
The new policy of allocation, while being an act of injustice is at the same time being used to hide the corruption of the institution.
This is an attack on the poor and a systematic means of disadvantaging already disadvantaged youths.
We cannot allow that those who have contributed to the state things are should go free while youth are being send out in the streets. To allow this would be evidence of covering up corruption and incompetence and uphold injustice.
That NSFAF is evidence of what happens in the presence of poor, greedy and ill-disciplined leadership cannot be denied. The actions of corruption always have negative consequences but it’s the poor and defenceless who often feel the brunt. It’s a shame that the people who are standing to fight against this injustice are students themselves.
Students who feel how their futures are hanging in mid-air that even those who have their loans awarded don’t feel the confidence.
The systems of NSFAF are eventually crumpling, the foundations have been deeply destabilised. Can it be salvaged?
The root of all this is a deep moral problem – mainly greed, corruption and mismanagement. The ministry of higher education has been aware of these problems for years, but paid a blind eye.
Someone, the government which is the supposed to be the custodian of the state’s resources paid a blind eye, with the hope that things will just fix themselves.
A disease doesn’t just go away without some intervention, be it by medicine or a miracle.
The government which was to cut out this cancer of corruption, has simply been focused on cosmetic changes. Institutional facelifts, rebranding, multi-million-dollar infrastructure and increased administration but did nothing about the what has been destroying the institution.
This failure is regressive. It’s an attack on our ideals of development and progress as a nation.
Destabilise the education sector and you’ve no reason to be as a nation. All our fight against colonialism and apartheid is now being tested. NSFAF is aiding in us achieving a quicker disintegration.
Should the government bailout NSFAF? Definitely, but it there’s need for much more fundamental changes.
The institution has been infiltrated by corruption and mismanagement, its problems are not just financial, that’s just an obvious one, there are those that are not clear to the public.
When an institution of this level is corrupt, it becomes home for abuse and we’ve witnessed how they’ve abused power to cover their own backs.
If we think that this is not a matter of concern, we’ll be surprised by the rebellion we’ll see in the youth.
After all, they’ve nothing to lose. We can only hope that it doesn’t escalate to that level. However, there is need to intervene and restructure NSFAF as an institution, with proper checks and balances.
The reason for the establishment of this institution was to ensure justice, therefore, we cannot allow it to be hijacked by corruption and mismanagement. There’s a lot at stake here, entire futures of young people and their families, it’s not a small matter.
Basilius M. Kasera