Unam Students Barred From Hostel Over Debt

Some University of Namibia (Unam) students who live in the hostels say they are stranded and have to endure the freezing winter cold by squatting around the campus without proper accommodation.

Most of the affected students who are Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) loanholders said the fund did not give them enough money for both tuition and accommodation because they are funded based on fields of study. They have been refused accommodation for the past week since the second semester began. The outstanding fees range between N$2 000 and N$8 000.

Unam hostel accomodation cost around N$18 000 per student each year.

One of the affected students is Shaandre Finnies, who is studying media studies which is regarded as a non-priority field of study. He says NSFAF only loaned him N$22 000 for the whole academic year.

“My tuition fee is about N$12 000 and accommodation is N$18 000. As of this second semester I was refused entry into the hostel because there is N$8 000 that I have to settle. Both my parents are deceased and my grandmother is a pensioner. Currently I am squatting with a friend in Khomasdal and getting a taxi for the 07h30 class is not easy. I can’t settle the outstanding amount due to my socio-economic situation,” he said.

The students said NSFAF should award all students equal amounts that will cover both accommodation and tuition fees irrespective of their field of study.

“The fund is impractical because it says people doing law, engineering, education and medicine get more funds because they are doing priority fields with a high demand in the job market,” fumed one of the students.

Students demanded the system of non-priority and priority fields be abolished. “We must all get equal funding to cater for both our tuition and accommodation fees. It is not for government to decide whether I will get a job when I am done or not,” Finnies noted.

Meanwhile, NSFAF company secretary and head of corporate communication, Fillemon Wise Immanuel, explained that granting financial assistance to students on the basis of priority fields of study “is not a thumb-sucked philosophy, but an extract of NSFAF Financial Assistance Policy, which is well-informed by the broader national needs and aspirations.” According to him, Namibia should not just be training for the sake of mass production, but the entire training framework is or should be tailor-made to meet specific national objectives, which are in this case filling the shortage of strategic human capital in various sectors of society. These sectors, he noted, include but are not limited to medical doctors, dentists, engineers, geologists, chartered accountants, lawyers, teachers and technicians. “Only through a strategic focus as far as training is concerned can Namibia gain its right position in the fraternity of industrialised nations and knowledge-based economies as envisaged under 2030,” Immanuel said.

However, he pointed out the above strategic pursuit is not meant to devalue or diminish the importance of other fields of study, but merely to underscore the fact that Namibia’s contemporary developmental challenges require focus in fields of study currently classified as priorities. “It follows therefore that in the process of identifying fields of study and in all career planning sessions students should be inspired and geared toward this value-adding journey. Thus, under the current socio-economic obstacles that Namibia finds itself in, providing financial assistance to priority fields of study equivalently to non-priority fields of study is retrogressive to the collective desire,” Immanuel noted.

NSFAF gives financial assistance to both priority and non-priority fields of study based on the rates assigned to different courses of study, notwithstanding the budget limitations.

Source : New Era