Tun Takes On Ministry Over Students in Ukraine

The Teachers’ Union of Namibia (TUN) has threatened to take the Ministry of Education to task if anything happens to the remaining Namibian students in conflict-ridden Ukraine and the Crimea peninsula.

TUN says the ministry made students sign an agreement that they pay back the costs of their fares and other related expenses for their return but some students do not have the required funds. TUN president Mahongora Kavihuha said that government stipulated that all students whether they were government loan or bursary holders, or privately funded, should pay back the money used to repatriate them.

“The Ukraine situation is a disaster just like any other disaster. Why should those students assisted by the state pay back the money? Some students refused to come back home because they don’t have the money to pay back [the governmnet]. Why should the minister (Dr David Namwandi) say they should pay back? Those students who could not return are threatened by the issue of paying back. If anything happens to those students who remain in Ukraine, TUN will hold the Ministry of Education accountable for any injuries or loss of lives,” he said.

However, Namwandi hit back and said, “TUN just wants to cause unnecessary commotion. They do not even represent students.”

Namwandi also said the ministry was helping students in the Ukraine as an emergency measure. “We were just helping students. It was an emergency situation. We told them that every student who wanted to come back home can come,” he countered.

In clarifying the issue, the Head of the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF), Hilya Nghiwete, said no student was instructed to pay back any money except their contractual study loans upon completion of their studies.

“We did not receive any report from our mission in Russia that there is a student – or students – unable to come because they have to pay back the money. The only report we got is that some students said they are in regions which are not affected and hence they saw no need to return to Namibia,” she noted.

She also said all students studying in Ukraine were given an equal opportunity to return irrespective of whether they fall under NSFAF or are privately funded.

Nghiwete said about 175 students were repatriated last month, of whom five were private students.

Although 340 students are funded by the NSFAF, Nghiwete said 60 of them are in Crimea and not affected and 280 were given an offer to return of whom 178 came back home.

The government is believed to have spent as much as N$5 million on flight tickets. The price of a one-way ticket from Ukraine to Namibia is currently about N$13 800.

Source : New Era