The government yesterday said the situation at the Loudima Institute for Technical and Vocational Training in the Republic of Congo has normalised and no evacuations of students will take place as demanded in recent weeks.
Higher Education, Training and Innovation Minister Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi – during a telephonic interview with New Era yesterday – said the situation has returned to normal at the institution and that classes will resume soon.
However, contrary to the minister’s assertion, students bombarded New Era with text messages this week claiming that the ministry is refusing to allow them to return home and that parents are being prohibited to buy air tickets to bring their children back home.
“To us it feels like we are being kept hostage. Our parents go to the ministry but all they do is lie to our parents. Since they have declared that they won’t pay our tickets can they please just permit our parents to buy the tickets,” said one of the students who chose to remain anonymous.
Kandjii-Murangi refuted the allegations by the students, saying Namibia is a democratic country hence no one will be forced to do things they do not want.
“There was nothing like that,” she said.
“Students were not forced to be on the programme and we will not force anyone to stay on. There is a contract between the students and the fund that is paying for their studies, but despite that, it is up to the parents to assess what is best for their children,” she said.
“Everything has settled down, hopefully our students will be studying as we had intended them to.”
A team from the higher education ministry, led by permanent secretary Dr Alfred van Kent, flew to Loudima last month to assess the situation.
“According to those who went there, it seems those that are pushing the idea to return are those with Grade 12. The thought the programme is for them but in actual fact it is meant for those who did not pass Grade 10,” the minister explained.
She said that upon completion at Loudima, students will obtain an A-level certificate that will enable them to enrol for technical vocational education training or the academic stream.
Namibian students at the institute stopped attending classes and are demanding government to bring them back home, while teachers say if it were not for the stranded learners they would be in Namibia already.
Students complained that they do not receive their monthly allowances, and water and electricity woes are rife, while the learning environment at the institute has also come in for massive criticism. They also claim they do not have textbooks and the library is not resourced.
The situation was made worse when the Congolese police allegedly shot at the Namibian students in an attempt to stop their recent demonstration at the institute.