A Spendthrift Nation

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The University of Namibia was once again in the news this week. This time, some of its students were locked out because of non-payment of hostel fees.

Altogether, 405 students owed Unam in excess of N$1.8 million in hostel fees by Wednesday.

This though is nothing strange seeing that the majority of people are struggling to make ends meet given the high cost of living in the country.

If things are that bad for the working person, what more for students whose parents have to scrape for every penny in order to send them to school. Bad debts are common these days, partly because of the economic situation in which many people find themselves. The cost of basic goods such as water and food has gone up so much so that many families have to make do without at times.

That is the one side of the story. The other, however, is that Namibians love spending, including spending on non-essential goods and services even when times are tough.

There is a culture that is emerging in this country where people lead expensive lives, or what Prime Minister Nahas Angula calls, conspicuous consumption.

There is a tendency by many to spend money which they do not have, on goods they can do without. This cuts across all sectors of society, including the poor. It is therefore not far-fetched to speculate that some of our students may be caught up in this conspicuous consumption.

In fact, word has it that Unam students are among the big spenders when it comes to the student population in the country. Not that they have a lot of money to spend. But even the little or average that they get, they spend it on luxury goods.

They spend not so much on books or goods that are essential for learning. Money is simply squandered on cell phones, second-hand cars and partying, according to those in the know. The consumption of booze is said to be very high at Unam.

Not long ago, this newspaper carried a story about Unam students letting out their rooms on campus in order to make money. This in itself says a lot about the mindset of some of these students.

Instead of focusing on learning and using the learning environment to further their education, some students simply turn their campus accommodation into a cash cow.

Lest we are misunderstood, we are not suggesting that those who were locked out of hostels for non-payment of hostel fees are big spenders or boozers for that matter. Far from it.

All we are saying is that Unam students, as well as other citizens, must become frugal and use whatever little resources they have meaningfully. They should become cognizant of the fact that they are the leaders of tomorrow and should lead exemplary lives.

The current generation of leaders is on the way out and they are on the way in. The future of this country rests with them and that is why they need to learn to act responsibly.

Even under the most trying times, they must show that when entrusted with responsibility, they will live up to expectation.

Unam students and others like the rest of the society have to try and manage their personal affairs with greater circumspection and live above board.
It is human or normal to incur debts, but all of us have to try and avoid bad debts because when that happens, we may reach a point of no return. Bad debts are simply bad.

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