Windhoek – The Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) says the tuition fees for students in China who were on the verge of being kicked out of universities due to debts, have been settled.
The debts were exacerbated by fluctuating foreign currency exchange rates, the fund said in recent weeks.
NSFAF’s acting chief operating officer Kennedy Kandume yesterday said the fund has channeled the outstanding money through the Namibian Embassy in China to pay the students so that they can resume their classes and sit for year-end examinations.
More than 300 students – most of whom are pursuing medical studies in China – complained that they were unable to fully settle their tuition fees and are also finding it difficult to survive, as there is a shortfall in the amounts after conversion of the Namibian dollar to Chinese yuan.
The students allege that government paid them N$62 000, instead of the usual N$87 000.
“What is happening is that we got permission from our board to pay,” Kandume told New Era yesterday.
“We have done calculations taking into account the percentage of currency fluctuation and we have topped up to help them settle the debt that is outstanding.”
“As we speak, we have paid for those students to settle their debt. We have instructed and paid to our embassy so that they can distribute the money through the normal channels to students. This was done early last week,” Kandume explained.
Asked whether NSFAF has done any follow-up on whether the money has reached students, he said: “We are in the process of following up whether the money has been distributed. Since it was an urgent matter, we had to act as quickly as possible.
So we still have to hear from our embassy whether there are still problems after the money has been channeled.”
NSFAF chief executive officer Hilya Nghiwete earlier explained that although the correct amounts, as per predetermined rate and signed contracts, were paid in full, the foreign exchange rate fluctuation negatively affected the Chinese yuan by 15 percent against the US dollar, resulting in reduced purchasing power, hence the shortfall in the amounts after conversion.
Nghiwete, however, said NSFAF is aware of the exchange rate fluctuation and has considered the takeover of the foreign exchange risk by paying students a top-up amount, equivalent to the fluctuation rate, to alleviate the burden on students and parents.
“This departure from policy and normal practice, however, requires additional funds and, therefore, approval by the relevant structures before communicating this solution to students and relevant stakeholders for implementation,” she maintained.
Nghiwete had informed government-funded students especially that NSFAF conducted a case study at some Chinese universities and the results revealed that not all students are negatively affected due to varying predetermined rates for different fields of study.
Therefore, the top-up solution in this regard, she says, is geared towards assisting all those negatively affected in order to counter the effect of diminishing purchasing power of the Chinese yuan.
In fact, Nghiwete says, a total of 206 of the student payments were already made by NSFAF in January. The other candidates, she said, were new students studying in China and payments for them were made between May and August.
“This is a significant improvement on payments on previous years by NSFAF, when payments sometimes only occurred in December. The fund would like to make it clear that it has paid all its students in China, as per the predetermined rate and signed for contractual amounts of N$87 000 for those doing medicine.
“Furthermore, relevant amounts for other courses – in line with the predetermined rate and signed contracts – were also paid. The assertion in the media report that NSFAF denied that they ‘paid less money than per their agreement with students’ is misleading and devoid of any truth and, therefore, should be disregarded,” she said in a statement.