Students taken for a ride

23 May 2019 | Columns

The plight of poor Namibian students has always been a hot topic in the media. Many have been barred from writing exams at tertiary institutions simply because they can’t afford to settle outstanding tuition fees. Their only hope or saving grace is landing a loan through the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF). But not everyone is guaranteed a loan to study at a university of their choice. This week NSFAF announced that the fund will only grant financial assistance to 19% of its new, eligible applicants during this academic year, due to a shortfall in its 2019/20 budget. In a media release the fund said it had received 24 739 applications for undergraduate financial assistance for the 2019 academic year, of which 15 087 applicants successfully met the minimum requirements and were eligible for funding. The fund will, however, only award financial assistance to 2 925 successful new applicants during this academic year, due to a shortfall of N$641 million in its budget for the 2019/20 financial year. The funding crisis effectively means that 12 000 students will not benefit from student loans in the current financial year and clearly poor planning, coupled with a pattern of spending taxpayers’ money on misplaced priorities, has brought us to this highly embarrassing situation. The status quo, which has seen government spending millions on useless projects, has created barriers to university access. Tertiary education has been turned into a privilege, much to the detriment of poor students. As Namibia continues to grapple with skills shortages and finding its way towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we can ill-afford to have unskilled youth in our country attempting to enter the job market. The lack of political will being displayed by the powers that be is a slap in the face of the youth, who are supposed to be the future of this country, and who later this year will be potentially casting their ballots in the general election.