Namibian graduates stranded in Ukraine

WINDHOEK, A group of about 30 Namibian loan-holding students, who just graduated in Ukraine, are up in arms over alleged failure by the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) to secure them flights to return home early.

The affected students, who are currently stranded in the eastern European country, graduated in fields of medicine, pharmacy and dentistry.

They complained that NSFAF only informed them on Friday last week that there were no flights available for them to leave by yesterday, as scheduled, after they had already checked out of their hostels.

Furthermore, they allege that they have been left stranded as they have no other accommodation alternatives until the new set date of 23 July when the airline the fund is using will have available flights.

The students are appealing to NSFAF to find alternative plans for them so that they could come home earlier � saying July 23 is far as they have no accommodation.

They also asked why the fund cannot use a different airline, which has available spaces this week so that they return home as scheduled.

The aggrieved graduates also said they were made to sign an addendum letter that states that they have accepted the fund to pay for their ticket but no amount is stated on the contract.

How were students supposed to sign a contract without knowing how much they will have to pay back in return? Hence, we realised something was up. Upon consulting other agents in Namibia, they were able to find cheaper tickets for any day of our choice, the Namibian students reacted.

They questioned why NSFAF changed its policy of booking them through one airline while in the past the fund used many airlines at the same time and at times sent money directly into their accounts to make their own bookings.

Hence, we are strong in arms that they should do the same and also send us a well stipulated and professional contract that states everything. We cannot sign a contract without fees written on it, as tomorrow they will say your ticket cost N$50,000 and that's what you have to pay back, meanwhile the ticket was just N$12,000, the students complained.

The students also say they have submitted their documents three months in advance, as required by NSFAF, to apply for air ticket flights, which determine their need for assistance.

These include the latest proof of parental income or pensioner's cards if the parents are pensioners as well as parent's death certificates if parents are deceased.

In response, NSFAF Chief Human Capital and Corporate Affairs Officer Olavi Hamwele said the award for international students is done on pre-determined rate basis, which is inclusive of flight tickets.

However, he noted that due to unaffordability by some students, NSFAF may grant a further loan for the flight ticket upon request, approval and signing of an addendum to the initial contract.

This simply means that the purchase of flight tickets for loan and grant holders is not automatic but restricted to the needy students or graduates only. Such needy students should undergo a mean testing to determine their need in this regard, Hamwele explained.

He said NSFAF have 81 students in Ukraine due to return to Namibia, either due to completion of their studies or for internship purposes.

Out of these, he said 35 of them are expected to return between July 23 and 25, while the remaining group of 46 is anticipated to travel between July 25 and 26.

He said once the needy student is approved for assistance and he or she had signed an addendum to the initial contract, such student is required to indicate his or her preferred travelling date.

However, such an indication is not tantamount to a confirmation as a date of travel since a proper booking must be done and air tickets issued. Approved students were advised through their Student Representative, Ruben Haiyaka, of the unavailability of the flights on their preferred dates of travel. Therefore, it was not necessary for the students to move out of the hostel pending air ticket booking confirmation and actual receipt of the air tickets, Hamwele noted.

However, he said the approved students, through the student representative were informed to reclaim their hostel accommodation or make alternative arrangements until their specific dates of travel.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia