The University of Namibia (Unam) finds itself in a financial predicament with student debt standing at an unprecedented N$255 million for 2016 alone.
This was revealed by the university spokesperson John Haufiku in an interview with New Era yesterday on student debts.
Statistically, Haufiku said, this translates to 19 130 students not settling their fees for 2016.
“This debt is significantly larger than the usual student debt the university has experienced in the past,” he said.
The huge student debt is due in large part to the agreement earlier this year involving Unam, the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) and the Ministry of Higher Education to allow students to register without having to pay registration and tuition fees upfront, following a demonstration by the Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso).
“This debt is a consequence of fee protests that occurred at the beginning of this year,” Haufiku said.
“They led to smaller negotiated deposits for many students which in turn meant larger outstanding fees from the start of the year.”
When asked what will happen to those who will not pay their dues before the October exams, he said that without settling fees students would not be allowed to sit for exams.
He noted the deadline for paying fees is September 30.
“We sincerely hope that students will be able to meet this educational obligation. Student fees constitute an important operational budget for the university. Such large debt may inhibit the university from meeting all obligations associated with running an institution of higher learning,” he reasoned.
He is hopeful that parents, guardians and sponsors of students have taken note of the university’s public notices on the issue, and trusts “that they will try hard to honour this important commitment in time”.
Equally, NUST has also said that no student whose accounts are in arrears will be allowed to write the October/November final exams.
However, NUST spokesperson Kaitira Kandjii recently told New Era that this rule is not applicable to students who are supported by the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) as an agreement with NSFAF makes provision for these students to write exams regardless of the state of their accounts.
According to him, it is important to note that the university generates the largest portion of its revenue from the government subsidy, then tuition income and third, stream income.
He noted that untimely payment will negatively affect the financial position of the university, and therefore NUST appeals to all students to pay their fees on time.
The rules of the institution clearly state that no student will be allowed to write an exam if he or she did not settle their accounts. A payment plan, outlined in the yearbook, was made available to students who wished to pay their fees in instalments early in the year.
The payment plan includes that for the first semester 33 percent be settled by February 29, while 66 percent was due by March 31 – and students had time to settle their accounts until April 29.
The second semester includes that 33 percent was to be covered by July 29, and 66 percent to be settled by August 31 until September 30.
Following student protests earlier this year, Vice-Chancellor Professor Tjama Tjivikua said the university’s registration fee of N$3 500 had not been scrapped, as widely believed, and should have been settled before students sat for exams by June.