In an effort to operationalise President Hage Geingob’s call to move away from the study loan scheme to a system of grants, the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) has changed its funding model for local institutions from the traditional predetermined rate, to a new model whereby tuition fees are covered 100 percent by a grant.
However, the non-tuition components of accommodation and meals, transport and book allowance are provided as loans and are only partially covered.
NSFAF chief human capital and corporate affairs officer Olavi Hamwele revealed this yesterday to New Era when asked about the president’s call last year to abandon the study loan system in favour of a system of grants that would enable students to build up wealth portfolios, instead of sinking into debt even before they graduate.
Hamwele said the new funding model is aimed at local institutions, namely the University of Namibia (Unam), the University of Science and technology (NUST) and the International University of Management (IUM), whose students get financial assistance from government.
For students staying in university hostels, accommodation and meals are covered 80 percent, or 50 percent for institutions with hostel accommodation, but no catering services, as well as N$3 000 for books.
Students who lodge privately will get N$12 000 per year for accommodation, N$6 600 for transport and N$3 000 for books.
Although the new funding model does not provide for a full grant system, it alleviates students’ loan liability significantly, he said.
Asked what the total current collective debt owed to NSFAF by students is, Hamwele said: “This remains difficult to establish due to the lack of recordkeeping in the time before NSFAF was established as an independent secretariat in 2013.” However, he said the reconstruction of student records is progressing well and the total debt for that period is estimated at N$1.65 billion.
Since 2013, loans of N$1.35billion have been provided, bringing the total outstanding balance to some N$3 billion, something the president wants addressed through a grant system.
Currently all courses in Namibia’s tertiary institutions, irrespective of their status, are offered at a cost, in terms of tuition and other fees. Many students, who get the chance to enter tertiary institutions with grades of 25 points and above, stand a chance to be awarded loans and scholarships through the NSFAF.
It comes at a high cost though, as students have to re-pay the loans upon completion of their studies.
The Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) at the time expressed delight at Geingob’s call for the abolition of the study loan system in favour of a grant system. Nanso has long been an advocate of the abolition of the current system.
Over the past few years, institutions of higher learning have been turning away student loanholders during registration and when it is time to take exams, as government had not yet released the funds owed to the institutions.
Last year Nanso, alongside the student leadership of Unam, NUST and IUM, reiterated the need for NSFAF loans to be transformed into grants.