Thousands of students at various institutions of higher learning remain in limbo over the status of their funding by the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) and are now unable to sit for their first-semester examination.
Close to 23 000 students applied for funding for the 2021 academic year, but only about 16 000 qualify for the NSFAF funding.
However, those who applied for state funding at the beginning of the year are now complaining they have been negatively affected by NSFAF, as the institution failed to provide the validation list of those to be awarded study loans and grants.
NSFAF received N$1.2 billion in this year’s budget. Last year, it received N$1.5 billion.
Students Union of Namibia (SUN), with student leaders from various higher institutions of learning, on Monday engaged NSFAF management and higher education executive director Alfred van Kent regarding the release of names of awarded students for 2021.
In an interview with New Era yesterday, SUN spokesperson Penda Nakawa confirmed NSFAF and Van Kent indicated to them during the meeting that the list cannot be released at the moment, as arrangements to secure funds are being made.
“However, as a student body, we made them aware of the fact that students have started with their examinations and some are to start. These students are, however, not permitted to write exams by their respective institutions,” Nakawa noted.
Contacted for comment, Van Kent confirmed Monday’s meeting with SUN and other student representatives from various institutions on the funding issue.
However, he was quick to point out that the main issue delaying the release of names is the aspect of funding, which is not sufficient to cater for close to 16 000 qualified
“It is a question of funding. We are trying to see how best we can get funding for these qualified students. NSFAF and the higher education ministry are in consultation to see how best to cater to these needy students. I told them we have a meeting this week to discuss technical issues,” Van Kent said.
New Era has been reliably informed that NSFAF, at the moment, can only fund about 8 500 applicants.
Therefore, Van Kent indicated once the technical team presents their report on the matter, the ministry will communicate its official stance on the funding crisis.
According to him, the technical team is expected to report back to the higher education and finance ministries.
NSFAF CEO Kennedy Kandume said they have completed the validation list for those who qualified for funding.
“We are done with the validation process. The potential beneficiaries will be informed in due course,” Kandume said.
SUN’s stance is that NSFAF immediately releases the list of the awarded students to allow them to sit for their exams.
Nakawa said, “As we speak, students are traumatised and confused, as they see their future being destroyed due to NSFAF delaying in assisting needy students as per their mandate. It does not sit well with us that from January until today (half a year), NSFAF is unable to release the list”.
SUN equally calls for the intervention of the minister of higher education, Itah Kandjii-Murangi, in this saga.
The University of Namibia’s main campus student representative council for external affairs Gerson Shikukumwa said as a custodian of students, he thinks it is not fair to reject students who have met NSFAF funding criteria.
“Our stance is that all eligible students should be catered to. Financial exclusion at institutions of higher learning is becoming a culture; therefore, the government should take drastic measures to ensure our students are not denied the right to access tertiary education.
If NSFAF does not have enough funds, it is up to them to engage relevant stakeholders for them to provide funds. Should they reject our students, we are going to retaliate.”