WINDHOEK - The Minister of Education Dr. Abraham Iyambo, this week took a sideswipe at institutions of higher learning for what he called the unacceptable trend of introducing new academic courses, and satellite campuses, without first consulting with the ministry on the available budget to sustain such additions.
Iyambo also criticised tertiary institutions for barring government bursary and loan beneficiaries from examinations, when government has not fully paid the tuition fees by the time the examinations approach.
“Do we assume approval by sneaking new courses into the budget requests? Some of us introduce new courses and enrol students without properly discussing the resource implications with the government. And then blame the government for the lack of space and funds. This practice must be discontinued immediately, summarily and forthwith,” he said.
The trend by tertiary institutions, he says, put the students in a peculiar position, as often the ministry does not have sufficient money to sustain such courses and the operations of new satellite campuses. Iyambo made the off the cuff remarks during the international workshop on higher education in Namibia taking place in Windhoek.
Iyambo minced no words when he called for an end to the practice of barring students from sitting for examinations, because government fails to pay on time. “Some students approach my office crying that they are chased away because they did not pay.
Students must be treated with empathy and sensitivity. They should be allowed to sit for exams, we will pay,” he said emphatically.
Iyambo reminded tertiary institutions funded by government that only the Minister of Education may officially approve new courses, adding that on many occasions he was caught by surprise when reading newspapers announcing unilateral decisions to build new campuses and satellite campuses without the knowledge of the Ministry of Education.
“This is a sure way to discredit government in the eyes of the nation and I trust the practice will be discontinued forthwith,” he said.
He said government could only fund what was co-planned, agreed and factored into the budget. Iyambo did acknowledge that some tertiary institutions are doing relatively well and urged institutions of higher learning to generate part of their own resources.
“However, this should not be done at the expense of students who cannot afford to pay,” the Minister reiterated. He cited functional universities such as Harvard, Oxford and Stellenbosch, which generate their own resources. At the same time, Iyambo said research in Namibia is not well coordinated.
“There is no total national expenditure on research. Research is under-funded. The ministry of Education is the linchpin of all academic research,” he said, “therefore, the ministry through the newly established National Commission on Research, Science and Technology and the National Research, Science and Technology will coordinate all research to ensure that it is relevant and serves national needs,” he concluded.
Iyambo said with a coordinated system, the ministry would be able to keep track of previous and on-going research and will be able to make informed decisions on funding.
The Ministry of Education has allocated N$570 million to the University of Namibia (UNAM) and N$163 million to the Polytechnic of Namibia in the current financial year. The Student Financial Assistance Fund and vocational education received a combined N$512 million.