Students in Moscow, Russia under the scholarship of the Ministry of Health and Social Services want the ministry to pay them their allowances on time, saying they always have to take out cash loans to survive.
But the health ministry has assured the affected students that it is working around the clock to remedy the problem it says is administrative.
Students said the money they get from loan sharks is to pay for groceries, cosmetics and also for transport to school as they live in different places far from the universities where they are enrolled.
“We have not been paid our stipend that was due roughly in the first week of November.
“We are tired of these delays when it comes to our allowances and the ministry of health doesn’t provide reasonable answers on the delays,” bemoaned one of the affected students who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We are supposed to receive our allowances every three months but sometimes they only pay us after four or five months,” the student told New Era.
Another student said students paid through Moscow’s payment system “are always delayed” and they want the ministry to step in and come to their rescue.
“Most students on scholarship come from very humble backgrounds and solely depend on the ministry of health, but now we are being forced to go to cash loans and do other things that we can’t mention in the paper that has led to trouble with the Russian law,” the student further revealed.
“Mind you, we live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and things have not been easy considering the economic crisis and sanctions on this country,” the source further added.
According to some students who managed to organise themselves to chat with this reporter on social media they live on barely nothing and are wallowing in debt.
“Yes we have communicated with the ministry of health but their response is always ‘be patient the money is being processed’. They never process the money on time considering the number of students they have under their scholarship. We would like the P.S. and the minister of health to intervene in this matter because what we signed for in the contracts is not being fulfilled,” said another desperate student.
New Era is informed that about 200 students are in a serious financial predicament in Moscow and many live in self-catering facilities, while the ministry only pays for their accommodation.
“We buy our own food and pay our own transport to school. We live at other universities’ hostels and have to travel around the city for classes at different universities and that is only for students in Moscow – we don’t know about the others in different cities,” said another.
Responding to claims by the Namibian students in Moscow, the spokesperson for the ministry of health Ester Paulus said the ministry remains committed to ensure that all payments to students and institutions where they are studying are made in full.
“Regrettably some administrative issues caused delays in the timely disbursements. The ministry regrets the inconveniences caused and is working tirelessly to rectify the situation,” Paulus said.
She further said that so far, N$93.4 million was already paid in respect of tuition, accommodation, medical care, book fees, stationery and transport at the beginning of the academic year.
“A student receives a living allowance of US$350 each month but some students still have to receive their last month’s living allowance which will be paid soonest,” she assured Namibian students.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services in 2013 embarked upon a project to train health professionals to address the challenge of staff shortage in state health facilities and in the country as a long term measure and thus students were sent with scholarships to study in Russia where standards are high.
The project started in 2013 and so far 650 students are studying in Russia, Zambia, South Africa, Tanzania, Cuba and India to mitigate the shortage of medical doctors.
The students’ fields of study include pharmacy, physiotherapy, radiography, environmental health, clinical science, medicine, dentistry, biomedical technology, clinical technology, and prosthetics and dietetics, amongst others.
The ministry of health provides funding to students for tuition, accommodation, medical care, book fees, stationery, transport and a monthly living allowance which, as complained by students, is always paid late, sometimes only after three months.