Students Protest

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By Anna Shilongo

WINDHOEK

Students at the Polytechnic of Namibia yesterday staged a three-hour protest against the way management handles a raft of grievances.

“Down, down, No Rector, No classes”, chanted the students of the Polytechnic as they braved the scorching heat.

They demanded to see the Rector, Dr Tjama Tjivikua, but he was not available.

They were told to hand over their petition to Dean of students, Frieda Shimbuli, but they insisted on seeing the Rector in person.

However, they later found out that Tjivikua was attending a Science Fair together with the Minister of Education, Nangolo Mbumba. It was at the Science Fair that they eventually handed over the petition to the Rector, copied to Mbumba.

They demanded that their grievances be addressed by Thursday, but Tjivikua said they would have to wait.

In the petition, students claim they feel management ignores their problems, which is seriously affecting their studies. Their concerns range from students being kept out of examinations even when they owe the institution as little as N$5, and annual tuition fees increases to high library fees.

Student Representative Council (SRC) president, Hileni Shikwambi, outlined in the petition that in June/July this year a decision was implemented to bar students who owed the Polytechnic from sitting examinations.

“This resulted in a number of students missing their exams. Knowing the skewed socio-economic situation of the country, many students could not raise the funds within a short time and therefore could not respond to the decision resulting in them missing out,” said Shikwambi.

Hence they were asking management to revise the decision.

They also expressed concern over the annual rise of tuition fees, adding that the fees were increasing without considering affordability by the students.

The SRC leader said even if they were informed that the council’s decision is not debatable, they demand a withdrawal of the decision taken to increase tuition fees for 2008.

They further suggested that the Polytechnic should only increase their tuition and other fees after two years.

“We condemn the decision that was recently taken to increase courses in every school of study, we were even informed that it’s a profit-making strategy,” said an angry student. Another concern was the student activity funds, which are supposed to be used for all student activities like clubs, choir, societies, sport codes and SRC operations.

They claim this fund is only being used for what they termed an autocratic annual cultural festival.

“There is no transparency in the spending of our funds, which is entirely controlled by the office of the Dean of Students without consultation with the SRC,” she claimed. A decision was also taken last year that students who obtain a 75 percent and above on their final marks earn a discount on their tuition fees.

“We therefore demand those students to be reimbursed as stipulated in the prospectus of 2006,” she said.

Students also complained about high library fines for using cellphones, or eating in the library, adding that the fines do not correspond with the offences.

“We demand that special arrangements be made for supplementary examinations right after every holiday,” stated the students.

“We also demand renovation of infrastructure that can better the services toward the general Polytechnic population, for example, lecture halls, hostel services and a construction of a multipurpose hall and sports facilities on the campus,” said one of the students.

Students also feel the SRC is not recognised by the council, and called for more consultation on some of the crucial decisions endorsed by the council.

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