Health ministry delays stipends for medical students

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Alvine Kapitako

Windhoek-Namibian students who are studying medicine on scholarships from the Ministry of Health and Social Services in Russia are struggling to survive after their sponsor failed to provide their quarterly stipends for May.

Currently 213 Namibian students on scholarships from the health ministry are studying in Russia.

“People really don’t have food, it’s not a joke. Moscow is very expensive – if students buy food for N$500 it will only last for two weeks,” commented a student who spoke to New Era from Moscow on Monday.

The student added that Namibian medical students in Cuba and Zambia have also not received their quarterly stipends.

The spokesperson of the health ministry, Ester Paulus, said the ministry provides a monthly allowance of about N$6,600 to each student in Russia.

The student said this money is for three months and is used for transport, food, books and health care.

“Some students really only depend on that stipend because they don’t have any financial support. I even know of students who send a portion of that stipend home just to help out,” said the student.

In a letter addressed to the media from the students in Moscow they wrote: “We are in a situation of life or death.”

The students who are busy writing their examinations explained that the health ministry has not paid their allowances for May. The students said the accounting officer in the ministry had said that they would receive their allowances in May. However each time they enquired they were told to be patient.

“We have been patient, cooperative and respectful of their requests to us. But up to now we have not been given a definite directive as to what date we can expect to be paid. We have always honoured our channels of communication with the ministry, but now we are left with no other option but to write to this newspaper. We understand there is a very difficult financial situation in Namibia right now. But we cannot just be left on our own for this long,” (sic) the students wrote.

They further said the majority of the students do not have food as they live in self-catering hostels. They also do not have money to pay for transport to attend classes.

“The delay in our allowances is affecting our exams, as we don’t have any food to feed our hungry stomachs. Most of us don’t have families with stable income. And this makes it even more difficult to get help from home. We ask that you call the permanent secretary, or the minister of the line ministry or even the prime minister of the country, to inform them that most of the students will not make it by June, 20 (sic),” the students wrote. The students said they are “stranded in unimaginable ways”. “At least they should pay some students so that they can in turn help others,” the students suggested.

This is not the first time students in Russia are complaining of delays in their allowances. Meanwhile, Paulus said the ministry would honour its obligation towards students.

“We are currently in the process of making payments for May, June and July 2017 to be received by students at the end of this month. The payment arrangements apply to all students under the same programme in other countries,” added Paulus.

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