The Namibia University of Science and Technology has fallen on its sword and will allow all its graduands to attend the once-in-a-lifetime graduation ceremony, including those owing the institution after the student representative council threatened to boycott the event.
This comes just a few days after the university announced it will not allow graduands with outstanding accounts to attend tomorrow’s graduation, citing financial implications.
The university has now reneged from that position and will allow all graduands to attend the two-day event, irrespective of their financial situation with NUST.
The university’s management had initially shut its door on NUST student representative council president Martha Ambabi, who had taken the students’ plight to their doorsteps.
“The SRC is pleased to announce that NUST has agreed to allow all indebted graduands to attend the graduation ceremony… This decision was reached collectively after engagement between members of the senate executive and the SRC,” SRC spokesperson Iyaloo Nghandi said in a statement yesterday.
However, those with outstanding fees will not receive their certificates or academic transcripts until they have settled their dues.
Yesterday, Ambabi was elated by the news.
According to official information, NUST is owed more than N$270 million in student debt.
What is more, there appears to be a fall-out between NUST vice chancellor Erold Naomab and the university’s human resources director, Riette Duvenhage, after she signed off on an agreement, committing the entity to pay N$300 000.
This is after Naomab allegedly endorsed the payment of N$300 000 towards the tuition fees of Joshua Kaumbi, the institution’s legal head.
Kaumbi, New Era is reliably informed, stands to lose his tuition funding commitment by the university, following his fallout with Naomab. Their relationship, it is understood, is at an all-time low.
This information is contained in a scathing letter, addressed to Naomab by Duvenhage, seen by this reporter, dated 22 April.
In the memo, Duvenhage, who has been at the university for over two decades, primarily registers her disappointment in Naomab’s alleged improper conduct and for bringing her professional standing into disrepute.
Naomab, it now turns out, denies ever agreeing to Kaumbi’s agreement.
“I wish to put on record that I take strong exception to the improper manner in which you spoke to me. For the second time, you pointed your finger at me and falsely accused me of being a liar,” Duvenhage said, mincing no words.
This is foreign to the HR practitioner, who has been at the university for 25 years.
According to her, she has always held Naomab in high regard, “believing we had a positive and trusting working relationship”.
What is, however apparent, is that the cash-strapped entity will fork out N$300 000 to finance Kaumbi’s Master’s degree, envisaged for enrolment later this year.
More so, Duvenhage gives a glimpse into Naomab’s unconventional modus operandi, one in which the VC takes major decisions verbally.
“I want to emphasise that I have always followed your instructions – many of which were conveyed verbally – and I have never been accused of unethical or dishonest behaviour in the past. Given the circumstances, I respectfully request that you treat me with the respect and dignity that I deserve without making me feel threatened or intimidated,” she said.
Responding to the incidents, NUST spokesperson Johannes Haufiku indicated it was normal for the VC to ask for information from subordinate staff regarding their duties.
“In this case, the discussion happened in the presence of a supervisor to Ms Duvenhage. While the VC always approaches staff in a collegial manner, it is expected that some staff may take offence in the process of being asked to account for decisions they have taken. Any offence caused or felt as a result of such a discussion is unintended; the main aim is to establish facts regarding internal processes and decisions,” Haufiku stated.
Kaumbi, the document shows, submitted his staff development application to pursue his Master’s degree in law at the University of Leicester, UK, in January 2022.
The lawyer requested a “one-year fully paid study leave and financial assistance of N$300 000 to pay for his tuition fees. I had more than one discussion with you regarding the procedures and how we dealt with similar cases in the past. You indicated that you approve his application in principle, subject to the availability of funds. He also informed me that you informed him that due to you being the approver, he should bring his application to me for recommendation and you for approval”.
However, when Kaumbi was asked to put pen to paper to seal the deal, he informed HR that he would not be able to take study leave in 2022 as initially requested, as a replacement for him in the legal office had to be identified.
As a result, Kaumbi elected to defer his studies to 2023.
Subsequently, his application was put on hold – and no funds were disbursed to the University of Leicester last year, she said.
“Although you did not sign Mr Kaumbi’s application for staff development, you informed me verbally that you approved the application in principle on condition that funds were available, which was then confirmed by Ms Dikuua.”
“Mr Kaumbi also informed me that you told him of your approval of the application form. I wish to state that I would not have signed the agreement template provided by the university if Mr Kaumbi’s application was rejected,” she lamented.
She added the finance department confirmed the necessary funds were available to pay the requested amount.
“However, Ms Dikuua proposed that the university pays N$150 000 in 2022 and an additional N$150 000 in the 2023 financial year. Mr Ileka was informed of this, and I requested him to prepare the required staff development agreement for approval.
Kaumbi intends to take study leave in September.
“Mr Kaumbi’s staff development application status is an internal matter, which we are not at liberty to discuss. NUST has a good staff development programme that allows staff various means of support while they pursue studies that are in line with their duties,” was all Haufiku could say.
Meanwhile, NUST has also commenced formal talks with the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) after weeks of letters flying between the two institutions.
“NUST’s management met with the Namibia Public Workers Union last week Thursday, 20 April 2023, to discuss issues raised in a letter written by Napwu about a month ago. This meeting served as the first of a series of planned meetings that will take place between NUST management and Napwu to discuss various concerns raised by the union on behalf of the staff,” Haufiku said in a different statement.
The NUST management stands accused of turning the university into a nepotism fiefdom, abusing labour laws and policies, and subjecting staff to harsh contract labour conditions.
Naomab has been fingered for abusing the university’s credit card and vehicles.
The union has also called for a forensic investigation into the affairs at NUST.
The university’s management has cleared itself of any wrongdoing while maintaining that some concerns raised by the disgruntled employees are legitimate.