Higher Education, Training and Innovation Minister Itah Kandjii-Murangi has appealed to those who in the past benefitted from the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) to pay back the money in terms of the agreement signed with the fund, if they have not already done so.
In making the appeal she also highlighted the challenges in collecting student debts, believed to collectively total millions of dollars, from former recipients who have completed their tertiary education through loans from NSFAF.
The minister was addressing reporters on issues pertaining to the fund in the capital yesterday when she made the plea.
She also confirmed that when the fund relocated offices some files containing names and contact details of previous recipients who owe the government money went missing, resulting in those funds being unrecoverable.
Kandjii-Murangi highlighted the difficulty faced in tracing some beneficiaries of the fund who are still to pay back money loaned to them to pay for their studies.
“Education is a partnership and wherever possible students, parents and guardians who have the means should feel obliged to contribute towards education,” Kandjii-Murangi said.
“NSFAF must become a vibrant revolving fund, through commitment of assisted graduates to pay back and voluntarily contribute to the fund.”
“The growth and sustainability of NSFAF will lead to the expanded growth of knowledge and skills of the country’s citizenry.”
Kandjii-Murangi noted that the NSFAF board of directors was also instructed to look into and ensure that tuition fees of all its fund-sponsored students are paid directly to universities and other higher education institutions where Namibian students are admitted.
“The board will come up with a clear distribution policy as to when sponsored students’ upkeep, transport, books, accommodation and other fees will be paid out each semester,” she said
“Lack of commitment towards [this] will retard and derail the nation from realising its goals of skills development, job creation, poverty reduction and becoming a competitive nation.”
She stressed that different efforts have been instituted to review and develop policies, systems and programmes since last year to strengthen and expedite institutions of higher education.
“For instance, already the board of directors’ fee structure was reviewed and found to be generally aligned with other state-owned enterprises boards’ fees.”
She continued: “The board was instructed again already last year to make the preliminary selection process at the regional level inclusive and transparent by involving the regional and local government leadership structures that are vested with knowledge of Grade 12 schools in their respective regions.”
According to her, the country is in need of many diverse qualified and skilled professionals across the spectrum.
The board was further instructed to review the fund’s products to have a pro-poor approach.