By Mathias Haufiku
WINDHOEK-The Namibian government continues to closely monitor the ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine where 300 Namibian students are studying.
Namibia is awaiting advice from the country’s embassy in Russia on whether Namibian students currently on holiday in the country can go back to continue with their studies, with just over a month left before the new semester starts.
The Minister of Education, Dr. David Namwandi, confirmed this to New Era and said government will not risk the lives of its students because of studies in Ukraine and the Crimea Peninsula.
Some universities are set to start the new semester mid-next month while others will commence only in September.
“We work hand in hand with the embassy in Russia to monitor the situation. They [students] have their return tickets, so depending upon the advice we receive we can decide whether to send them back. If parents want to send their children back they will do so at their own risk,” he said.
Namwandi said the academic calendar would not dictate when the Namibian students will return to Ukraine because “the safety of the students is our top priority.”
According to Namwandi: “I am not concerned about when classes will start, I am only concerned about the welfare of my children [Namibian students].”
“You saw what happened there a few days ago with the aircraft, it means the situation has not normalised yet. We must be careful in sending our students back into a danger zone,” he said.
Namwandi said he is constantly in contact with the Namibian embassy in Moscow, Russia which also covers Ukraine to ascertain how the situation is in Ukraine.
Government spent close to N$5 million on flight tickets for about 320 students, whose studies it is funding in conflict-ridden Ukraine and the Crimea Peninsula.
The crisis started last year November when Ukraine’s then President Viktor Yanukovych reversed a pro-European Union trade deal and pivoted it towards Russian influence which eventually brought thousands of Ukrainians in protest and subsequently turmoil in the Ukraine.
The demonstrations intensified earlier this year when protesters resisted the move and parliament deposed Yanukovych.
The ousted leader has since taken refuge in Russia.
The Crimean Region has been taken over by Russia after a 16 March referendum and unrest is brewing in other eastern Ukrainian areas with a large population of Russian speakers.
Last week, a Malaysian passenger airline was shot down in Ukrainian airspace, with both Russia and Ukraine accusing each other of carrying out the attack, which left the entire 298 people on board MH17 dead.
The aircraft was flying from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia."