Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) Vice Chancellor Professor Tjama Tjivikua yesterday said the university’s registration fees of N$3 500 have not been scrapped, as widely believed, and must be settled before students sit for exams in June.
NUST and the ministry of higher education only agreed to allow students to register without having to pay fees upfront, but such students would still be required to settle those fees before they can be allowed to sit for examinations, Tjivikua told New Era.
He said expressions such as “scrapped” and “abolished” in reference to NUST fees were confusing and misleading, as they create a belief that students will no longer be required to settle such fees after last week’s protests.
“Nothing was scrapped. It’s wrong vocabulary. It only means you now have time to pay over a longer period, meaning you have just postponed payment of your debt, but your debt is still in your book. That’s what we are saying,” Tjivikua explained.
“Nothing was abolished. It was a temporary measure to address the emergency. The students will have to pay their fees, otherwise they will not write their exams,” he remarked.
Tjivikua said when students register, they have access to their own accounts any time of the day and will see what is reflected on them. “They should not expect government to pay for it. They should take it upon themselves as they were allowed to register and settle their accounts,” he noted.
Tjivikua further said NUST has registered about 5 000 students, mostly senior students whom he says had already settled their debts by last week. He said N$1 500 out of the N$3 500 – payable at registration – serves as registration fee, while the N$2 000 is for tuition deposit, which has to be paid at the end of the first semester by each student.
He also clarified that the agreement to allow students to register is only applicable for this semester.
“There is not no such thing as free tertiary education in Namibia. In business management, one takes about six courses per semester. What we are saying is, in the next six months until June one must at least pay N$ 1 500 on average. The second semester you don’t pay any registration fees anymore, because you only pay in the first semester,” he clarified.
Tjivikua argued that Namibia is offering cheaper courses compared to the same degrees offered by the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa, which he says charges twice as much.
He denied that NUST fees are exorbitant, saying: “We do an analysis every year of all the courses we offer and compare it to others in the region.”
“If a student cannot afford a certain course, it doesn’t mean the fees are exorbitant. Let’s just get it right. Mind you, at UCT, you pay N$24 000 and you still have to settle your account before you sit for exams. I am not insulting the parents, but it’s the primary responsibility of parents.
“You cannot just give your responsibility to someone else, especially the university for charging fees. If they don’t pay now, how will I run the institution until government subsidy in June?” he asked.
In a letter written on Friday by higher education permanent secretary Alfred van Kent to Unam Vice Chancellor Professor Lazarus Hangula, he said students from higher education institutions approached his office since last year complaining of financial difficulties.
This, he said, prompted the ministry to request such institutions to allow students that owe money to still write exams.
“The ministry has in the same vein approached the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund to establish whether we can assist students to cover the outstanding debt. On the issue of registration and tuition deposit, it is our conviction to ensure access to higher education.
“We appeal to your institution to allow students to register while we are working on a more permanent solution. No student who met the academic criteria should be sent back due to financial challenges,” the letter reads.
Unam spokesperson John Haufiku said the university received the letter, but they have written back to the ministry as the letter is not clear.
“We received the letter. Management met on Saturday and they have asked for clarity. We are waiting for responses. We don’t understand the modalities. It just says we should allow students to register, but we don’t know which students must register, whether it’s first year students or what,” he noted.
New Era has been reliably informed that some students went on shopping sprees after government and NUST announced that students would be allowed to register even if they do not have the registration fees upfront.
The Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) plans to lead #VarsityLockDown protests at Unam today.