32 Students Face Expulsion From Russia

MORE than 30 Namibian students face expulsion from universities in Russia after the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) failed to pay for their tickets to return home for internships.

The students, most of them doing medicine and engineering, may not be allowed to return to their universities if they fail to do internships, which is a prerequisite for proceeding to the next academic year.

Some students told The Namibian yesterday that most of them had travelled for about 36 hours by train to the airport on Friday after NSFAF had promised to have their tickets ready by last week.

They further said it is NSFAF policy to buy tickets for third-year students coming for internships.

“We had already arrived at the airport when NSFAF communicated to us that the Fund is not in a financial position to buy our tickets. Now we are stranded as we have no other alternative arrangements,” said one of the students, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation.

The students said they have already communicated their plight to the Minister of Education, David Namwandi, who said he could only attend to their plight today by inquiring from NSFAF what the problem was.

He told The Namibian yesterday that the NSFAF was an autonomous institution and he did not want to appear as interfering in their affairs. However he said he was aware of the plight of the students in Russia. Namwandi said their predicament could have been brought by the fact that NSFAF had spent about N$4.5 million on students who were brought home from Ukraine in May when the political crisis in that country intensified.

“That money was not budgeted for,” Namwandi said adding that he sympathised with the students and that they had not been forgotten.

Meanwhile, the students said they have now been forced to squat with other students since they have nowhere else to stay. They also fear that they may be deported because they are expected to leave the country by 10 July 2014.

“The dilemma we are facing is the fact that this was communicated to us at the last minute when we could have made other arrangements with our parents,” the student said.

In a letter addressed to the students dated 3 July 2014, NSFAF chief executive officer Hilya Nghiwete said the Fund was not in a position to support the exercise, aising the students to apply for the tickets next year.

“In the meantime, NSFAF will try its utmost to do proper planning for next year’s internship support, meaning NSFAF will first give priority to those students that are about to graduate,” she said.

Nghiwete also said the decision to withdraw funding for tickets was not only limited to students in Russia, but also those studying in Algeria, Cuba, Ukraine and China.

“It is against Russian federal law to exceed one’s stay in the country. We had already notified the authorities that we would leave on the 10th and we will be in trouble with the law if we do not leave by that date,” said the student.

The student said they may be fined if they do not leave the country by the 10th.

Attempts to get comment from Nghiwete or NSFAF spokesperson Percy Tjihere were unsuccessful.

Source : The Namibian