Unam allows indebted students to write

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New Era Newspaper Namibia
Official Logo for New Era Newspaper 2016 version

Windhoek

The University of Namibia (Unam) has decided to allow students who collectively owe the institution millions of dollars to sit for their exams, following protests on campus since Monday where angry students tore up exam timetables, without which they were initially not permitted to enter exams venues.

On Tuesday the university management took a last-minute decision to cancel all examinations scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

In order to resolve the burning issues on campus, Unam management held meetings with the Student Representative Council (SRC) and both parties agreed that students should be allowed to write their exams, but on strict conditions.

Unam vice chancellor Lazarus Hangula, who took the issue to the governing council on Tuesday, resolved that students with genuine financial constraints should consult with the Office of the Dean of Students (ODS) to verify the legitimacy of each student’s case in terms of the ODS protocols. Once successful, council said such students will be authorised to write their exams.

Another condition agreed to is that students who are found by the ODS not to be in a financial need should sign individual settlement agreements with Unam. Hangula said students that owe over N$100 000 must consult the ODS and the Office of the Bursar to evaluate why their student fees escalated to such an amount and to agree on the necessary steps to be taken.

Furthermore, it was agreed that students who are unable to settle their fees now should enter into individual settlement agreements with the Office of the Bursar, after which they will be authorised to write exams.

The VC said failure to comply with the settlement agreements by December 31 would result in the nullification of the particular student’s results.

“The above agreements ensure that there is no blanket approval for all students and enables Unam and its council to determine the number of students with legitimate financial needs and those who will pay before 31 December 2016.

“Students who do not enter settlement agreements with Unam will not be able to write examinations. There are also strict consequences for those students who fail to comply with the conditions of their individual settlement agreements,” Hangula warned.

Unam management said the collective student debt declined from a historic peak of N$255 million to N$145.39 million earlier in 2016, thus the university could allow more students to sit for their final exams.

The reduction means Unam students paid off about N$100 million of the debt in just two months.
By October 6, about 13 616 registered students still owed the university some N$145.39 million.

About 8 165 students, who discontinued their studies last year also still owe N$51.3 million in total.
The October exams that were abruptly cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday, Hangula said, will commence today.
Unam cancelled the scheduled exams as students protested the fact that many were not allowed into the exam venue due to outstanding tuition fees.

The students – many of whom are deeply indebted – were protesting over what they called the “no pay, no exam” policy, which stipulates that those with outstanding fees are not allowed to write exams.

The protesting students demanded that Unam allow everyone to write and rather withhold the results until the students’ accounts have been settled in full.

Unam’s examination policy states that students may not access exam venues without a timetable. Although many students were able to settle their outstanding fees in time, a handful of students were not able to. This was not the first time the SRC at the main campus submitted a petition regarding the university’s decision to bar those who have not settled their tuition fees from writing exams.

The ballooning student debt comes after Unam, as well as the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), in conjunction with the Ministry of Higher Education, agreed earlier this year to allow students to register without having to pay fees upfront, after thousands of students protested against what they consider excessively high tuition fees.

Unam said the debt is a consequence of the #feesmustfall protests at the beginning of this year, that allowed smaller deposits for many students, resulting in larger outstanding fees at the end of the year.

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