Unam Students Defiant Despite Threats

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By Chrispin Inambao WINDHOEK Individual students accused of being the ringleaders of the recent boycott of the compulsory breakfast introduced last week by the University of Namibia say they should not be singled out because it was a majority decision endorsed by most of the resident students. Over 60 percent of boarders supported the boycott and the General Student Assembly (GSA), the highest Student Union’s decision-making body, also endorsed it. Students accuse management of arrogance and coercing them to eat the compulsory meal that management says is intended to remedy hunger-induced yawning during lectures. Early this week Professor Lazarus Hangula, the Vice Chancellor issued a stern statement in which he threatened to “deal” with those he accuses of having intimidated other students to participate in the meal boycott that seems to have shaken the institution. Professor Hangula was so incensed that he threatened to evict those he accuses of instigating the unrest from the hostel to make room for “more deserving students”. But one of the alleged instigators of the boycott Fillemon Wise says 680 students from a population of 1 086 boarders signed the petition opposing the compulsory breakfast. Wise is a former SRC member for Academic Affairs and is the current vice president of the Debating Team. He is also a student parliamentarian at the University of Namibia. He said the recent meal boycott was a collective decision by the majority of hostel students who felt the breakfast should have been made optional because some of them come from poor families who simply cannot afford the N$12 being asked per meal. Wise called for more consultations on the issue and appealed to the Vice Chancellor to have an audience with students’ representatives so that they can present their views. Archie Shipanga, another student parliamentarian named by the Vice Chancellor as instigator, acknowledged his role of having aroused the students and was defiant, saying, “I will continue doing so in good faith and in a non-violent manner.” On the Vice Chancellor’s counsel that the disgruntled students should have used appropriate communication channels, Shipanga said the insinuation that proper channels were not followed was invalid because the aggrieved students exhausted all channels of communication but to no avail. “Although students are bound and are responsible for their contractual obligations, this however does not give the management nor the University Council the right to dictate, abuse and misuse their powers,” stated Shipanga, who is a not a resident student. He advised management to adhere to good governance as per the Public Service Management Department in the Office of the Prime Minister that advocates integrity, equality, transparency, accessibility, responsiveness and objectivity in all departments. “I will not and I refuse to be intimidated. Even the highest Office in this country can be challenged. If you wish to infringe and violate our fundamental freedom rights enshrined in Article 21 that (1) All persons shall have the right to (a) Freedom of speech and Expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media….you are welcome to do so,” stated the student parliamentarian who also has a dual role as a rights activist. “Students, let us not allow ourselves to be intimidated, but let us rather seek for the truth, peace and justice. Because the truth will never kill you (as) it will set you free,” he said. A senior official at the Namibia National Teachers Union (NANTU) said the union is in solidarity with students: “we believe this is not an individual decision. It is a collective decision by the students as proven by the petition. In addition the students’ concerns should be discussed, addressed or an amicable solution should be sought.” When contacted for comment, Katrina Sikeni, a spokesperson at Unam requested written questions to which she was unable to respond by the close of business yesterday.