The majority of students who had to return from the Loudima Institute for Technical and Vocational Training earlier this year due to unbearable academic and living conditions have blatantly refused to return to the institution – even if the Ministry of Higher Education sorts out the administrative mess.
Following a series of dramas – including the Congolese police shooting at students, students demanding to be brought back to the country and fed-up students walking through the Congo jungle to the country’s capital Brazzaville in order to return home – the higher education ministry in March decided students should return home for a three-month holiday, which ended in June. The three months were used by the technical team to finalize all the outstanding challenges at the institution.
Students earlier claimed the institute was not accredited, did not have enough teachers, no uniforms, and the library was empty. Students were taught in French, a language they say they had not yet mastered. They were supposed to attend French classes for six months but the courses only lasted for four months.
Students also said they didn’t have textbooks. They fetched drinking water from the nearest village, which is 25 kilometres away but could spend up to five days without drinking water because there was no petrol to drive the car. They used generators for electricity, which was only switched on certain hours of the day.
Students New Era spoke to stated they are not going back and no matter how many changes are brought they will not return to the institute.
“The ministry wasted our time, and now they want to wash their hands. It is unacceptable,” said a former student.
“One of the things that make us not want to go back is the qualification the institute is offering. The minister said the school is for Grade 10 certificate holders. We have Grade 12 certificates. So we can’t be getting an A level certificate in 4 years,” said another student.
They said some students were already admitted at local institutes and international universities for the 2017 academic year. “What we need is that the ministry must tell us whether they will pay for us or not – for us to prepare ourselves.”
Higher Education Ministry Deputy Permanent Secretary Dr Raimo Naanda told New Era the institute was established to provide access to technical and vocational education and training for marginalized youth.
“As a ministry, we will continue to encourage students to continue with their training at Loudima,” stated Naanda.
He said it is essential to underscore the fact that it is the prerogative of students to apply for admission at any other institution of higher learning – “be it local, regional or international”.
In addition, he said students will have to apply for study assistance from the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) and should understand there will be no special preference or treatment for them. They will be treated like any other student in the country.
“The ministry does not deal with student funding. Should the students wish to apply to any institution of higher learning it is their prerogative and should they meet the admission requirements at such institutions, they are advised to approach the NSFAF for financial study assistance,” he said, adding that students should also meet the requirements of NSFAF to be considered for financial assistance.
Further, students will receive testimonials upon successful completion of their studies and will be awarded a qualification commensurate with their level of studies completed. This, he said, should be evaluated by the Namibia Qualification Authority to equate it on the national qualification framework.