By Megameno Shikwambi
The Namibia National Students Organisation (NANSO) faces the risk of being dragged before court on defamation charges by a local tertiary institution run by a Zambian national.
The National Institute of Technology (NIT) has said that it has approached its lawyers and may possibly take NANSO to court after the latter accused the institution of not acting in the best interest of students.
A few weeks ago, more than 60 students sought the assistance of the student body after they claimed that NIT was overcharging them for subjects that were charged less at universities.
The students have also claimed that they have been made to write subjects that were not registered with the Namibia Qualifications Authority.
Another allegation against NIT has been that lecturers were being fired at random, with new lectures being called in and as such their studies were being compromised.
Some have also alleged that they did not sit for certain exams and now wanted NIT to refund them.
The students approached Nanso to approach the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) and have their funding transferred to a new institution they have migrated to which is affiliated under the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).
NANSO president, Ester Simon said she has tried to reach out to NIT but no avail.
She has accused the institution of watering down education standards and rallied NSFAF to act in the interest of students by moving their funding out of NIT.
However, the chief executive officer of the institution, a Zambian national, Frederick Chizu Simpungwe, issued an ultimatum to the student body for what he said were defamatory statements made against his institution.
“We refer to your attached statement in which you have negligently accused NIT of offering unaccredited courses and for many irregularities such as students not sitting for examinations for an entire year with great dismay.
We consider your statement to be unfounded and of great danger to not only the NIT’s reputation, staff and stakeholders but also to many students who have been included on your list but are still very actively studying with NIT.
The NIT management respects and considers NANSO to be an impartial, well governed and responsible critical body that only engages itself into matters that it fully comprehends and are beyond any doubt reliable and of ethical origination,” reads the NIT letter to NANSO.
Approached by this publication on what would be his next plan of action, Simpungwe said he could not make a public comment on the issue as it was “now in the hands of our lawyers”.
NANSO in the meantime seems unfazed. “As an organisation that represents students, we represent the welfare and well-being of students and not institutions that are out there.
To us they are a relevant stakeholder because in their view they are trying to uplift the Namibian child. Isn’t it?
So we are not going to just stand up and issue comments that are going to defame anyone or give a bad view of any institution. But what we want to do is to cooperate, to work together. Even when they brought me that letter, I said that everything that was said by the organisation is from the students.
Let us speak together as two entities that both share the students’ interests and see how we can cooperate. If it means going to court to represent the Namibian child then we are ready. Personally I am ready and the organisation is ready,” said Simon.
The alleged problems at NIT and the students’ grievances have been reported since March of this year, Simon said.
She said 68 NIT students flocked to their office saying that they wanted to jump ship at NIT, she added.
“In fact the documents that I have seen with my own eyes say that the courses that they are studying were not accredited with NQA and NQA sent this to them in writing saying that this is an unaccredited course.
The same students are then saying that the quality of education that they are getting, according to them, is not up to standard and compromising them to a point that lecturers are being changed left, right and centre,” she said.
NANSO has in the meantime adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach in response to the threat of being sued.