Ministry Accused of Bending Rules

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By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek Some students at the Namibia Aviation Training Academy (NATA) have raised concern over a decision by the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication to bend its standing rules in order to grant a bursary to Namene Mbumba. Namene is the daughter of the Minister of Education Nangolo Mbumba. The Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication decided to grant a scholarship of approximately N$250 000 to Namene to study for her commercial pilot licence in South Africa despite the ministry’s policy that scholarships for pilot courses will only be granted to students studying in Namibia with NATA. The contract for all the scholarship recipients reads that the financial assistance, which includes full boarding, will be paid directly to NATA. However, in the case of Namene, the payment was made to Flight Training College of South Africa. The project coordinator who is responsible for the administration of the scholarship, Christian Sell confirmed to New Era that the ministry breached its own rules when it awarded the scholarship. Sell noted that the decision, which in the end was approved by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication, was taken because Namene had already started the commercial pilot course in South Africa and that they did not want to disrupt her studies. Sell added when Namene was granted the scholarship, she was already in South Africa and the ministry contacted the mother who informed them about her application being successful. Sell said, “The mother called senior officials at the ministry and it was agreed that she will be awarded the scholarship despite being in South Africa.” The project coordinator added that the ministry also arrived at the decision because of a recommendation from NATA, which said it would not be wise to disrupt the studies of Namene. Sell noted the ministry also avoided her losing the deposit she paid to the flying school in South Africa and a number of considerations were made for her to get the scholarship. He concluded that Namene will not complete the entire course in South Africa and will do part of the course in Namibia with NATA. However, the students accused Sell of making “clumsy excuses” and noted that in the past, there were students who were in similar situations and were not granted scholarships. One student who spoke on condition of anonymity stated that she was in a similar situation two years ago. She had to finance her studies herself. The students claimed that Namene also submitted her application for the scholarship beyond the deadline. “She was here with us at NATA when she applied for the scholarship way past the deadline and we suspect that the application form was pushed in.” NATA was established a few years ago and trains between 10 and 20 students every year. The objective of the funding is to afford Namibians the opportunity to obtain appropriate qualifications and to be employed in the aviation sector in Namibia. Sell added that the ministry does not grant scholarships to students studying outside Namibia because they want the money to be utilised locally. “The Ministry of Finance will not be happy if we take this money outside the country if it can be spent locally. The taxpayers will not be happy.”