Students demand equal funding
28 October 2020 | Education
Japan Jason; Students United Movement; “The protest will only end if the various entities in charge start paying tuition and non-tuition fees in full.”
Members of the Students United Movement (SUM) handed over a petition to the Walvis Bay urban constituency office, highlighting the financial plight of local students.
The petition stated that over the course of the year, various student leadership organs have engaged and submitted complaints to the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF), the ministry of education, training and innovation as well as the ministry of finance on outstanding student fees (tuition and non-tuition) for the 2017 to 2020, saying that little has been done.
“Tertiary education is not free in our country; thus the majority of the nation depends on securing a study loan from NSFAF. In contrast, the fund adopted a policy in July 2019 which is diverting from the NSFAF mandate stipulated in the act, stating that it should fund all students that are studying at recognised higher learning institutions and doing a course which is accredited by NQA,” the movement said.
According to SUM, the policy discriminates, divides and favours some students / institutions.
“As a result, many students are rejected and end up struggling to pay for their studies. Students are not happy with how the fund is being managed and misused by the NSFAF administration.”
The students said that the NSFAF awarding decision does not affect first year students only, but affects all year groups.
“Since 2016, there have been hiccups in the funding for students, which left many still owing the university, including those who have already graduated. Because of non-payment, their qualifications are being withheld by the University of Namibia and they cannot secure jobs. This has perplexed us, when we think of what will happen to those who are still in grade 11 and 12 now,” Japan Jason, a SUM member and Secretary General of the National African Student Association said.
According to Jason, the situation is out of hand due to non-action, and students are not sure whether NSFAF will be able to fund those who will be in their first year in 2021, as the ministries of finance and higher education continue to allocate inadequate funding year after year.
“This has been the case since acting CEO Kennedy Kandume was co-opted to head NSFAF,” she said.
The students stated that they are desperate, in agony and living in fear because their voices and concerns have been ignored.
Through the petition, SUM demanded that full payment commence of students non-tuition fees for 2017.
“We also demand the full settlement of students’ tuition and non-tuition fees for 2018, 2019 and 2020.”
Other demands include the settlement of financial aid to Namibian students abroad, funding for postgraduate students, abolishment of pre-determined rate funding, withdrawal of the draft NSFAF discriminatory funding policy that has been amended to disadvantage poor students, reactivate funding for all articulating students, and contracts to all rejected level 5 students.
SUM also wants equal non-tuition fees for all TVET-funded students, non-tuition fees for boarding students and the reestablishment of NSFAF regional offices.
In addition, SUM wants the position of NSFAF CEO, of the Windhoek Vocational Training Centre, NIMT, NUST and the National Commission on Research Science and Technology, to be advertised.
The students stated that the protest will only end if the various entities in charge start paying tuition and non-tuition fees in full, adding that they will be convinced through proof by the number of students confirming full payment.
“If our demands are not responded to, we will continue protesting at NSFAF headquarters and regional offices.”
The movement further demanded that NSFAF and the ministry of training announces the date for the amendment of the funding policy in November.
“NSFAF and the ministry must announce that they will give contracts to students which were unlawfully rejected by NSFAF, especially the students doing a level 5 qualification, articulating and private mature age entry; and they should commit that they will pay their non-tuition and tuition fees for this year and their remaining years.”
The movement also wants NSFAF and the ministry to announce its commitment to give VTCs a contract of non-tuition fees from next year.
“NSFAF must pronounce itself that they will redeploy the regional offices to all regions and that the vacancy of the above CEO positions be released.”
The students are hosting protests across the country.
Walvis Bay Urban constituency councillor Knowledge Ipinge received the petition and promised the students to forward it to the relevant authorities.