Following weeks of uncertainty over the issue of laptop procurement, higher education minister Itah Kandjii-Murangi yesterday assured students funded by the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) will not forfeit their non-tuition fees as per the signed contract.
Some student bodies have approached lawyers in an attempt to stop NSFAF from procuring laptops for students with their non-tuition fees.
This follows a bidding process advertised by NSFAF on 1 September 2020, calling for business submission, until 7 September 2020, for interested parties to procure laptops for students.
The laptop initiative of N$180 million contract to supply university students with 32 000 laptops is part of the government’s support plan for higher education institutions and students to boost e-learning platforms and ensure remote teaching takes place during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kandjii-Murangi explained NSFAF-funded and private students will benefit from the Covid-19 emergency support programme.
“The government will subsidise the cost of the laptop by 50%. The students will be given two options to finance the remaining fifty percent (50%). One option will be for the student to finance it through a NSFAF loan, which will be repayable as per NSFAF Financial Assistance and Recovery Policy. The other option will be for the student to finance the fifty percent through a cash payment,” she noted.
After a needs analysis by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) found that about 32 000 students have no access to laptops or computers, treasury was approached to avail additional resources and to grant NSFAF an exemption to procure the gadgets for needy students.
An implementation plan for laptops acquisition was launched.
She said the laptops are for all needy students at local institutions of higher learning – NSFAF beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries – on a need to have basis.
“Strict public procurement processes will be followed. This global pandemic needs a strategic sectoral response and support to address the entire student population, including the non-NSFAF funded students.
According to her, besides facilitating teaching and learning during Covid-19, this investment should be taken as a fundamental step by government to position higher education institutions at a level where they can unleash their potential and that of their students; to harness and optimise the use of new technologies, 4IR and innovation in advanced knowledge creation and the nation’s development through homegrown solutions.
To avoid misinformation, she said the ministry has resolved to engage the elected SRCs of the various higher education institutions and the newly established apolitical Namibia student leaders’ task force team.
The ministry recently engaged the elected student leaders and SRC presidents, agreeing on resolutions.
She said student leaders made it abundantly clear to the line ministry that they prefer to remain the authentic conveyors of students’ challenges: to their institution’s leadership and the government – through the line ministry and or NSFAF.
Further, she said they detest, in the strongest terms, any suggestion or intimation of them having been party to any current or future plan to address higher education matters through courts.
“These elected student leaders do not want students’ challenges, problems and concerns politicised. The elected student leaders are to work with their institutions to verify the numbers of needy students to benefit from the Covid-19 emergency support progamme; they are to actively participate in the Covid-19 committee set by the line ministry,” she maintained.