Following further delays this week by the Namibian Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) to release the list of awardees for the 2021 academic year, student unions have decried the anguish the fund’s tardiness left hopefuls in.
Around 23 000 students applied for funding for the 2021 academic year, however, only about 16 000 qualify for funding by NSFAF.
On Monday, as part of the 2021 award update, NSFAF notified the applicants and the general public that as part of its due diligence, it conducts mean testing using criteria such as income (parental or guardian or own income), academic performance, and priority fields of study.
The fund said it discovered that information on income provided by the majority of applicants is unfortunately inaccurate and this criterion is, therefore, subject to further validation by the finance ministry.
NSFAF apologised for the delay in the release of the awardees list and promised to publish the list as soon as the validation or mean testing is completed. In an interview with New Era, Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) spokesperson Esther Shakela said they have learnt with dismay about NSFAF’s inability to release the list of awardees for the 2021 academic year.
She said it is further disappointing that the NSFAF resorted to smokescreen tactics to hide their incapacity to deal with students’ concerns.
“This unsettling news comes at a time when close to 23 000 students are desperate for hope, certainty and security. It is disappointing that the NSFAF has not released the award list after three months. It is near impossible that the vast majority of students would provide incorrect information to the fund. More concerning is that the fund only detected these errors after three months,” Shakela said.
She said institutions of higher learning have begun and continue to deny students entry into examination halls, adding students will soon be unable to register for the second semester at institutions such as the University of Namibia (Unam) and the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).
She singled out barriers such as financial constraints, the technological gap, the inability to acquire books, pay rent, buy food, and transport costs are impeding access to quality education for the Namibian child.
“These challenges may seem exaggerated but they are the harsh reality of the majority of students,” said Shakela.
Consequently, Nanso demands that NSFAF, the higher education and finance ministries come together and direct all resources towards the finalisation of this award list before the first week of July.
Students Union of Namibia (SUN) said they have now concluded and declare that funding in Namibia for 2021 is a crisis. SUN president Bernhard Kavau said this delay by NSFAF is unacceptable and they can no longer tolerate it.
“This acrimonious relationship between NSFAF and students has been coming on too long. Above 17 000 students who have qualified for funding are still in limbo as to whether they will be funded or not,” he remarked.
He said: “We sometimes ask ourselves; how do our leaders sleep at night when thousands of students are in limbo? We are in the middle of the year and there is still no clear direction in terms of funding. NSFAF’s reasoning keeps shifting, at first, they couldn’t release the names because of funds that are not enough, now without telling us whether they got additional resources or not, apparently they cannot release the names because of wrong income statements provided by the applicants.”
NSFAF, this year only received N$1.2 billion in the national budget. Last year, it received N$1.5 billion.
SUN has given the parties involved a few days to release the list, failure to that, they threatened to approach the court to force NSFAF to publicly release it. “Should the court fail us, we will resort to mass national demonstration to the Office of the Prime Minister, NSFAF, higher education ministry and the Ministry of Finance. Covid protocols won’t stop us from fighting for students’ rights.”