WINDHOEK - In an unexpected move the members of various student representative councils (SRCs) yesterday snubbed the invitation extended to them by higher education minister Dr Itah Kandjji-Murangi to attend a meeting to discuss the disunity among the Namibian National Students Organisation (Nanso) leadership.
The minister wrote a letter on August 13 seeking an audience with the Nanso leadership, which was scheduled to take place yesterday.
The letter was written three days after the students staged a demonstration over funding which ended in chaos. However, none of the SRC leaders at the University of Namibia (Unam), the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) and the International Universty of Management (IUM) showed up for the scheduled meeting.
The snubbing comes weeks after the Nanso leadership, along with the elected SRC leaders and students of all higher educational institutions – both private and public who are funded by NSFAF – staged a peaceful demonstration over a failed promise by the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) to settle students’ outstanding accounts as per agreement signed between them and the fund a month ago.
The agreement was signed last month by Nanso vice-president Bernard Kavau and NSFAF acting chief executive Kennedy Kandume.
The two parties said due to the economic downturn and competing priorities against limited resources, the higher education funding is equally affected. For non-tuition fees for the 2018 academic year, the parties agreed NSFAF to pay a flat fee of N$17,000 per student for both continuing students and new intakes. This is applicable to both boarding and non-boarding students. Such fees were payable on or before July 31.
Since the payable set date had lapsed, Nanso Khomas leadership did not take this failure to the agreement lightly, to the point of the demonstration in front of Government Park in full view of heavy police presence where they threatened to shut down the higher education ministry.
The students then refused to vacate the premises at Government Park after the minister addressed them that their concerns would be considered and feedback given at an appropriate time.
Kandjii-Murangi told the angry crowd of demonstrating NSFAF-funded students that the government is unable to fully pay for their non-tuition fees, hence she called on their parents to top up the shortfall.
Students found themselves with shortfalls ranging from N$5,000 to N$10,000.
Kandjii-Murangi said education is a shared responsibility and due to the economic hardship experienced in the country the government will not be able to top up the shortfalls.
She called on parents to understand the situation and chip in to assist government financially.
Her comments led to the students’ refusal to vacate and the police intervened and forcefully dispersed the students, leaving some with injuries.
Nanso secretary general Simon Taapopi yesterday confirmed to New Era that the student leaders did not show up for the meeting.
“The meeting was postponed. It didn’t take place because the student leadership was not present. Those Nanso SRCs who were invited did not come. So, it was postponed to a later date,” Taapopi said, without revealing the next date the meeting was shifted to.
He could also not give the exact reasons why the SRCs did not show up for the meeting.
The letter written by the minister on August 13 was addressed to Nanso president Ester Simon, Nanso vice-president Benhard Kavau and other national Nanso-elected SRC leaders from Unam, NUST and IUM.
The letter under the subject heading “Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation meeting with Nanso national leadership” states that unity and common purpose are the hallmarks of leadership.
“As indicated in the short address I gave to the demonstrating students and their leaders on August 10, 2018, and in my televised speech during the 20h00 news bulletin on that same day, the division within Nanso is not helping the student cause at all,” the letter reads.
The minister was expecting to meet the elected student leaders yesterday at 15h00 in the ministry’s boardroom.