By Desie Heita
Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) students receiving financial assistance from the Ministry of Education almost had their hopes of further education dashed when the institution could not register them because of insufficient tutorial fees.
Most affected are those studying for Bachelors of Technology degrees at the Polytechnic.
In frustration, the students held an impromptu demonstration at the Polytechnic Campus. Last week was the deadline for registration.
Beneficiaries of financial loans from the Ministry of Education could not register for the current semester as either they owed the institution from the previous semester or the loan amount given for this semester by the Namibia Student Finance Assistance Fund (NSFAF) was not sufficient to cover the entire semester.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Toivo Mvula, concurred that the demonstration was “because the loan amounts that are awarded by the Ministry of Education, through the NSFAF, are less than the amounts of the courses’ costs”.
Subsequently, student leaders had a meeting with the Ministry of Education and the Polytechnic of Namibia, after which the Ministry of Education wrote a letter of assurance to the Polytechnic of Namibia that it would settle the amounts owed.
“Since the demonstration, we have written a letter to the Polytechnic of Namibia assuring them that we will pay the outstanding loan amounts once the funds are released by the Ministry of Finance. This outstanding loan amounts refer to the amount indicated on their individual ‘letter of awarding of loan’,” Mvula told New Era.
Student leaders Paulus Hauwanga, who is the President of the Students Representative Council and Andre Neville of the Namibia National Students’ Organization (Nanso) said the Ministry of Education had also undertaken to pay late registration fees for the students who did not register.
The Polytechnic of Namibia undertook to extend a full week to allow the affected students to register.
Mvula said the reason behind the shortcomings in the funding is because of a review of the ministry’s loan rate. The review was based on degree courses at the University of Namibia and diploma courses at the Polytechnic. As a result, Polytechnic students received less loan amounts compared to students studying at the University of Namibia.
“We have since been giving loans to students doing B-Tech degrees at Polytechnic, but we were unable to review the rates at the time, due to financial constraints. However, we are at the moment re-examining the loan rates, but this does not mean that we will cover the full amount,” said Mvula.
This is not the first time that students benefiting from the NSFAF have had problems with registrations. Last year the Ministry of Education failed to pay the tertiary institutions on time, prompting the Polytechnic and the University of Namibia to bar students from writing their year-end examinations.
Students fought back successfully and wrote their examinations but, again, the two tertiary institutions withheld the examination results, demanding payments first.