Windhoek-Disgruntled students at the Namibian College of the Arts (COTA) said the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture has not met their demands made in a petition submitted to the ministry on Tuesday morning.
Students, who expressed their anger during a demonstration from the COTA campus in Katututra to the head office of the education ministry on Tuesday, handed a petition to the permanent secretary Sanet Steenkamp, addressed to the minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa.
In the petition students demanded “the school resume on Monday 19 June, the ministry of education prioritise the institution and redirect funds back to the institution, and ensure there are enough lecturers, technical resources, software and equipment to upgrade the new media design.”
“How is it possible that students have to travel from different regions to be rubbed with a letter in their faces that school is postponed till further notice because of financial constraints? Is this what Harambee calls for? What will happen to our future?” were some of the questions listed in the petition.
Permanent secretary Steenkamp responded to the petition, saying “although there is a moratorium on new recruitments in the public service, the situation of the shortage of lecturers at COTA is seen as critical and the ministry is making every effort to find a solution that will bring the situation at COTA to normal.”
“Skilled industry practitioners and arts educators are to be hired on a contract basis using correct requirements and procedures, and all possibilities will be explored to find financial resources in order to address technical needs such as material,” she added.
Student leader of the college Steve Angulan said the response from the ministry does not meet their demands, which are made clear in the petition, and they would go back to the ministry for a resolution of the dispute.
“We want school to resume on Monday the 19th and the ministry said nothing about the date – so tomorrow morning we are going back and will not leave unsatisfied like the last time,” he said.
COTA, which lamented staff shortages since last year, has relied heavily on part-time lecturers and industry experts on short contracts that they could no longer afford consequent to budget cuts, which in turn forced the institution to send home 140 students.
“The financial constraints of government and subsequent budget cuts have impacted deeply on the college’s diploma courses so much so that the media department lost lecturing positions due to longstanding open vacancies,” head of media arts and technology studies (MATS) Joost van de Port told New Era.
Van de Port said: “MATS should have sixteen teaching staff on the go. Only eight positions are filled, the other eight are open.”
“We have been working with part-time lecturers and industry experts on short contracts. But there is no more a budget for the current group,” he added.
For this term COTA has not asked first and second year students for tuition fees and those who have paid can request a refund if need be.