EENHANA - The establishment of the Namibia University of Science and Technology satellite campus in the Ohangwena region remains uncertain, despite the institution already registering a high number of students for this academic year.
There seems to be a disagreement between the Ohangwena Regional Council (ORC) and NUST over the lease agreement, with the learning institution requesting to utilise the Billy William Mwaningange Rural Development Centre (BWMRDC) rent-free, a move the council’s management is against.
In a letter dated 10 February 2022 addressed to the council’s chairperson Erickson Ndawanifa, NUST appealed to the regional council to reconsider the rental amount and provide the centre free of charge for a period of three years.
The institution of higher learning motivated its request by saying it will invest significantly by setting up the satellite Ccampus at the centre, add value to the property and support ORC community initiatives, which will all benefit the town and region in general.
NUST said it will invest about N$7.5 million in turning the BWMRDC into an operational academic centre, a further N$500 000 for the installation and maintenance of fibre optic internet cables that will be left behind for the ORC after vacating the premises, and an additional N$80 000 for the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings, existing equipment, as well as water and electricity for the duration of the lease agreement. NUST further argued that the setting-up of the satellite campus will benefit the community of Ohangwena by sourcing local companies to provide services such as cleaning, security and the kiosk administration, thus creating employment for the local people. In addition, there will be an increase in revenue for transportation to and from the centre, as well as income for accommodation providers from both students and staff members.
It will also use specially-designed projects aligned to the region’s strategic developmental roadmap to drive research, innovation and entrepreneurship.
“These projects focus on economic development, the acceleration of land delivery, youth empowerment and job creation, food security, access to potable water and roads infrastructure development”.
They are further requesting to utilise the entire facility and the furniture, contrary to what is stipulated in the lease agreement, saying NUST is willing to undertake the maintenance of the existing furniture at own cost. The ORC, during a special meeting held last Tuesday, however, refused the rent-free request and is sticking to its decision taken during the ninth ordinary council meeting on 28 October last year.
Resolution C011/09/10/21 reads as follows: “the house approved the Namibia University of Science and Technology to co-exist with the regional council at the Billy Mwaningange Rural Development Centre in order to keep the main purpose of the centre. Council further decided that NUST shall be charged a market-related price for the facilities i.e, administration block and 300-person conference hall and attached boardrooms, with the exception of the welding workshop”. The resolution further called for a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the ORC and NUST for a period not exceeding three years, starting this year.
During this week’s deliberations, the ORC’s administrative officials claimed that all the reasons stated in the letter are only in NUST’s own interest, and not benefiting the regional council. They are arguing that what NUST terms as an investment is only for the efficient operation of the campus, just the same as their set-up in other towns.
The council is further accusing NUST of not taking the deliberations seriously and trying to shift blame, saying the institution of higher learning is pushing the council to act in duress by waiting until the last minute to write the said letter. The ORC added that although the talks about NUST setting up a satellite campus in the region were discussed on time, the engagements to utilise the BWMRDC only started in August last year, with the tertiary institution advised to put its request on paper. The council is further arguing that the lease agreement which was set up by the technical committee, created specifically for that purpose, contains subsidised rates, in comparison to the current market-related rates. The current market rental rate in Eenhana is N$69.40 per square metre, but in the lease agreement, the council is allegedly only charging NUST N$33.60 per square metre.
Reached for further comment, the ORC’s senior public relations officer Panduleni Nepembe said a letter was written by the chairperson and sent to NUST and other stakeholders on Wednesday stating the council’s decision, but they are yet to hear from NUST on their next move.
NUST spokesperson Nico Smit said the institution received the communication from the ORC, but can only comment once it has been properly studied.
* Hileni Mwandingi is an Information Officer at the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, based in the Ohangwena region.