Students Owe Millions in Fees

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The delayed payment of tuition fees by students at the higher institutions of learning remains a challenge for the country. The Polytechnic of Namibia has expressed concern over the non-payment of tuition fees by students, adding that this affects the cash flow of the institution. This situation is not unique to the Polytechnic but repeats itself on an annual basis at the University of Namibia too. Like in the previous years, students at the two institutions of higher learning have developed a reputation for owing large sums of money. Polytechnic of Namibia Bursar, Sadia Brendell, revealed that of the more than 6 800 students enrolled at the Polytechnic for the 2006 academic year, 3 872 have not yet settled their outstanding balances. In total, the institution is owed N$8 million in tuition and hostel fees. “There are 3 288 students who owe the institution more than N$250.00 each. They may still do so (settle their debts) before they write their examinations,” she said. Comparing the situation to last year, Brendell says this year’s situation has deteriorated. She attributed this state of affairs to the government’s delay in paying the study loans of some of the students. Last year the same period, students owed N$5.8 million in tuition and hostel fees. The Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Education, Toivo Mvula, acknowledged the delay in study loans, adding that this was due to the introduction of a new integrated financial system. He assured that everything has been processed and students at these institutions would have their fees settled any time soon. Students at the Polytechnic who have not settled their fees will not be allowed to write the examinations in November but will have a chance in June 2007 provided they pay. Examinations at the institution start on 6 November and run till 25 November. As part of its business, the institution, Brendell added, issues statements on a bi-monthly basis, reminding students to settle their debts. She admitted that the debt situation affects the institution’s cash flow and programmes. “One should understand that the Polytechnic receives the bulk of its annual budget as a subsidy from government. Student fees, however, complements the subsidy and constitute about 19.5% of the Polytechnic’s revenue,” said the bursar. Public Relations Officer at the University of Namibia, Utaara Hoveka, could not provide information on how many students have not yet settled their debts or how much the institution is owed. “Presenting any figures at this stage would not be representative of the situation on the ground as students are still paying. However, the number of students who owe has dropped significantly,” he said. Students who do not pay their debts will not be allowed to sit for examinations and, according to Hoveka, are not eligible for registration next year. “They will be further handed over to debt collecting agencies,” he said. The university has about 10 000 students.