Windhoek-Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) CEO Hilya Nghiwete says the fund is greatly concerned about the impact of the #FeesMustFall movement in South Africa.
#FeesMustFall is a student-led protest movement that began in mid-October 2015, started by the University of Witwatersrand SRC of 2015 led by Shaeera Kalla in response to an increase in tuition fees at South African universities.
Nghiwete says with 60 percent of students studying outside Namibia being based in South Africa, this concern is important, and calls for the fund not only to closely monitor the situation, but also to explore diversification strategies in ensuring the studies of Namibian students are not interrupted.
Nghiwete makes the comments in the fund’s annual report for the 2015/16 financial year, tabled in the National Assembly by Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, Itah Kandjii-Murangi, last week.
Furthermore, Nghiwete says the government’s continued support of the fund and the fund’s own efforts to ensure that the revolving mechanism, through loan recovery, bears the intended fruits, are key to the fund’s long-term sustainability.
As such, she said, enhancing efficiency, ensuring capacity, improving organisational effectiveness, and meeting strategic themes in carrying out the fund’s mandate are vital.
“One of the major challenges faced, with regard to sustainability of the fund, is the limited space in the national budget to increase the fund’s budget in a way it will allow NSFAF to adequately meet the demand for funding,” she said.
Nghiwete says she has observed that while the annual national budget growth rate is 5.2 percent, the NSFAF annual budget growth rate over the past three years has been 36 percent on average.
In this regard, she said, engaging the fund’s stakeholders in finding ways sufficiently responsive to the demand for educational funds is of paramount importance.
“Ensuring a strong return on investment in terms of the gradation of students funded by NSFAF, and their eventual employment, is a challenge the fund works hard to achieve,” she said.
However, she said, NSFAF has no control over learning/teaching at the institutions in which students are placed, nor is it able to influence economic dynamics that may influence graduates’ absorption into the economy as employees.
Also, Nghiwete says NSFAF can play an important support function to realise this role by ensuring that funds awarded are targeted at prioritised areas vital in improving employment prospects for students, after they have graduated from the programme for which funding has been provided by NSFAF.