Barely two months after students at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) staged a demonstration over registration fees, NUST boarders are up in arms over the quality of food served by the institution.
The students feel that the meals served to them are sub-standard, while they are being charged exorbitantly for such meals.
About 400 students, who reside in the hostel on campus, have reportedly been complaining about the poor quality of food being served, but it appears their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
NUST students pay N$15 500 per year for a full meal package and N$7 750 for half a package, with the option to decide which of the packages they prefer.
“We pay so much money for hostel meals, but the food served to us is of poor quality. Many a times, they serve us tasteless meals and when we complain they do nothing about it. The meals are not nutritional and we end up not eating some of it and just throwing it away, which is a waste of our money. We want them to bring a dietitian on board to ensure healthy and balanced meals,” a second year student said on Friday. Last year NUST spent about N$7 million on hostel meals, but the amount set aside for hostel food this year is only about N$5 million, New Era has learned.
The students also protested that hostel management does not allow them to have microwaves in their rooms – a situation they feel is unfair. Some say they are treated as if they are primary or secondary school learners.
According to them, sometimes they are late for meals due to classes – or equally importantly appointments off campus – hence some prefer to take a lunchbox to put their meals in so that they can eat later, but are denied that option.
They say the hostel management put strict rules that no lunchboxes are allowed in the dining hall and this causes many students to miss their meals, because sometimes they are not available at mealtime. New Era visited the dining hall at lunchtime on Friday. This reporter witnessed that students who came with lunchboxes had their lunchboxes confiscated by one of the hostel managers.
Some students threw their meals in the rubbish bin, as they had other engagements to attend to and did not have enough time to dine at leisure.
“If you come with a lunchbox, they confiscate it. We are adults and do not deserve to be treated like this. We should be allowed to have microwaves in our rooms, like other universities, so we can warm our food when it suits us to eat. We don’t like the current system, where we are forced to eat at a certain hour of day, as if we are prisoners. And if you are not around, then you miss out,” another complained.
When contacted for comment NUST hostel manager Eugene Brown dismissed the students’ complaints as baseless, saying the new university provides students with a variety of nutritious meals three times a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner.
When asked why students are not allowed to take food to their rooms, or own microwaves, Brown said it is for reasons of cleanliness and to avoid pests, such as cockroaches, moving into the hostel.
“We cannot allow them to have microwaves or to take food to their rooms in lunchboxes. We’re avoiding cockroaches. These are the rules in place and we must just follow them,” Brown said.
NUST spokesperson Kaitira Kandjii said a full plate, consisting of rice, mutton and vegetables, priced at approximately N$45, is a fairly reasonable amount compared to a number of food outlets around Windhoek.
Kandjii said NUST provides students with a varied menu, which includes chicken, pork, mutton, beef and fish. He explained that such menus are planned in conjunction with the menu committee, which consists of staff and students.
Further, she said, the university also caters for vegetarians and students with special dietary needs.
“Thus the allegations made by students [that the food is] expensive and substandard are misleading, as they do not fully represent the reality of the matter. However, management encourages students to come forth with any complaints, or suggestions they may have, as the university aims to continuously improve student services.
“At this point, there have been no formal complaints lodged in this regard,” Kandjii noted.