• February 23rd, 2020

New student funding crisis looms



Although the number of students meeting funding requirements are increasing every year, the annual budget of the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) is not commensurate wiith the increase.

NSFAF spokesperson Olavi Hamwele yesterday in an interview with New Era said such increase puts pressure on the fund to cater for all eligible applicants.

President Hage Geingob on Tuesday said the government is aware of issues at NSFAF where scores of students are left in dire straits due to poor implementation and execution of duties. Last year, the government raised more than N$400 million to bail out the more than 12 000 students left without funding.

When asked how many applications NSFAF had received from potential qualifying students, Hamwele said the application process had commenced on 6 January and will continue up to 29 February. 

To date, he said, a total of 12 004 applications were received. This means 12 004 acknowledgement letters were issued – every successful application generates an acknowledgement letter.

New Era wanted to know what is NSFAF’s budget projection for this financial year to avoid the situation of last year when thousands of students were left without funding.

In this regard Hamwele noted that the number of students meeting funding requirements are increasing every year, which is not commensurate with the fund’s budget increase. 
This of course puts pressure on the fund to cater for all eligible applicants.

Meanwhile, higher education spokesperson Selma Ngola said the budget preparation process and engagements are still ongoing and the final funding allocation to the ministry as well as universities will only be confirmed once the national budget is tabled in parliament.

“As a ministry, we are however cognisant of the difficult economic climate the country is currently experiencing and collective efforts are needed to stabilise the fiscal situation in the shortest possible time.  The downturn in the economy has not only affected our ministry but other institutions and branches of government as well,” Ngola emphasised.

Hence, she said it is therefore too early to presume what allocation the ministry will be receiving from Treasury during the coming financial year.
In 2018, the University of Namibia received N$1.2 billion from the State but in 2019 only received N$900 million due to budget cuts. 

Ngola said it is not now possible to speculate how much the institution is going to receive in the coming financial year.  “But it is our hope that Treasury will be able to meet all institutions’ funding requirements,” she added. 

She said the ministry regards access to higher education, as well as skills development, as of paramount importance to transform the Namibian economy from a resource-based to an innovation knowledge-intensive economy.  She said the government remains committed to funding higher education despite the challenging economic conditions. 

She explained that state-owned enterprises are annually compelled to submit a business and financial plan to the portfolio minister at least 90 days before the commencement of the next financial year.  
According to her, the government, when allocating budgetary resources, takes certain factors into consideration. These include the global ministerial ceiling; each institution’s total revenue base (registration fees, tuition fees); the personnel expenditure of each institution; and new programmes to be implemented.
She elaborated that the ministry takes such factors into consideration in determining the total government budget allocation to an entity in a specific financial year.

Claims are that Unam gets more funding than the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).
“It is farfetched to claim that Unam is funded more than NUST. The programmes offered at institutions coupled with financial expenditures play a significant role in determining government allocation to a particular institution.  The needs and capacities, programmes on offer, staff complement as well as a number of students at these two public institutions are totally different which dictate the funds to be allocated to them,” Ngola clarified. 
- anakale@nepc.com.na 


Albertina Nakale
2020-02-06 07:26:21 | 17 days ago

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