COTA suspends courses over budget cuts

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Ngaevarue Katjangua

Windhoek-The Namibian College of the Arts (COTA) is about to can some of its courses, shut classrooms and send home more than 100 registered students in their first and second academic year.

News of the impending closure, which the Windhoek-based college confirmed to New Era yesterday, has caused some confusion among enrolled students, who are now uncertain of their academic future at the college.

The college was, however, hopeful that ongoing consultations with the Higher Education Ministry would yield a workable solution before Friday, by which time COTA has to make a final decision on whether to send the students home or not.

“The financial constraints of government and the subsequent budget cuts have impacted deep on the College of the Arts diploma courses,” the head of Media Arts and Technology Studies, Jooste van de Port, told New Era.

The affected include 140 students in their first year and second academic years, who are enrolled in the fields of television production, radio production, new media design and sound technology.

Van de Port said the main problem is staff shortages, as well as the fact that “the complexity of teaching creative, journalistic and technical/vocational skills has always required special teaching needs and the media courses rely on industry experts and practitioners, as well as academic staff.

“The media department has recently lost lecturing positions due to longstanding open vacancies. Currently, government does not allocate funds to fill positions that were open before October 2016. Employing lecturers to fill position on part-time contracts is also not possible,” van de Port said.

The operational budget allocation to the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, under whose auspices the college resides, underwent an average 12 percent cut since 2015/16. In the current financial year, the operational budget was reduced by 13.5 percent – or N$467,4 million – and now stands at N$3 billion.

“At the moment we are working with the ministry to find solutions [to] avoid the collapse of these highly relevant courses that connect to youth development and employment and also connect to the media industry’s demand for qualified staff,” van de Port added.

“That said, the ministry recognises the relevance and importance of these courses and has expressed commitment to guarantee the continuation of the courses. It works together with the directorate of arts and the College of the Arts to seek alternatives for critical teaching positions,” he noted.

The college was, however, afraid that the required measures might still take time to materialise and this could impact adversely the progress of various academic year groups in the current term.

Media students in their third year are not affected and the college said they would be able to progress with their studies as usual, “as some resources are in place and their progress is mainly self-directed”.

The college said whatever the outcome, the affected students “would be informed in due course about what is at stake for them and of the arrangements for the term.”

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