Where’s the Money for Karas Students?

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Many thanks for affording me space in your broadly read newspaper as I would like to express my concerns in respect of the inequitable distribution of student financial assistance from institutions such as parastatals, private entities, etc., particularly when it comes to the Karas Region. I fail to understand why underprivileged students in the Karas Region wishing to pursue studies at tertiary institutions have to struggle in securing financial assistance in terms of bursaries, scholarships, grants, loans, you name it. Reliable figures indicate that prospective students from the Karas Region obtain the least financial assistance in terms of the aforesaid, compared to other regions in the country, e.g. Oshana, Omusati, Ohangwena, Khomas, amongst others. Upon enquiry recently on the subject of this grave situation at the relevant authorities dealing with the Students Financial Assistance Scheme, I was made to believe that the assistance granted to students is based on a quota system. No wonder the bulk (almost 60%) of financial assistance for students is off-loaded to students residing in the Central and Northern parts of the country. The irony though, academically speaking, is that the Grade 12 students in Karas remain to be one of the top performers nationally over the last decade or so, in terms of grades obtained that would guarantee them admission at tertiary institutions in Namibia and beyond. Is it really fair to award financial assistance based on quotas (numbers) rather than performances (quality)? What annoys one even more is that the rather oblivious honourable councillors in the region so oftenly seize the chance to boast around with the saying: “The Karas Region is the richest region in the country”, whilst the very same residents of this part of the country are literally travelling hundreds of kilometers to other parts such as the Khomas Region begging someone or some institution to assist them. Anticipating that this gross disparity regarding the NSFAS is not something that’s about to change overnight, I don’t see the reason to dwell on it further but rather hint that the honourable governor, the Karas regional councillors, community leaders, churches, parastatals, private entities, private individuals and the community of Karas must wake up and “smell the coffee”. Our youth are surely but slowly moving toward the trench of absolute degradation of dignity as a result of unemployment, extreme poverty, increased involvement of crime, diseases, e.g. HIV/AIDS. A trajectory partly to blame because of opportunities being shifted to other parts of the country despite the abundant untapped intellectual potential the region possesses. Though commendable, much more needs to be done than the just established Karas Development Trust (KDT). Though considered to be the richest region in the country vis-ÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚ -vis natural resources, it is equally considered to be one of the most impoverished stricken regions. Instead of allowing big companies to deny the people of this region of opportunities, in particular the students, we the community of the Karas Region ought to join hands and ensure that it becomes practice that big diamond companies such as Namdeb, De Beers Marine, Auchas Mine and Skorpion Mine, amongst others, start giving preferential treatment to deserving students from Karas (as it is done inconspicuously in other regions) from which they derive their riches. The solution is to incorporate riches with academics then I am confident we can talk about a wealthy region. This I am convinced will not only avert the exodus of intellectuals from this region but would be an investment that would reap benefits for many generations to come. Benedick Louw Keetmanshoop