Cash-strapped NSFAF to 'prioritise'

The student funding body has held a workshop to identify fields of study to receive priority in funding.

12 September 2019 | Education

The Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) and the higher education ministry, along with other stakeholders, are determining which fields of study deserve to be prioritised when fund beneficiaries are selected.

A consultative workshop was held at the NSFAF head office in Windhoek on Tuesday to discuss which scarce skills the country needs to invest in and prioritise, in terms of the fund's 2020 beneficiary intake.

Earlier this, NSFAF announced that more than 12 000 first-year university students, who qualify for funding, may not receive financial assistance during the current financial year, unless government covers a N$641 million shortfall.

In July, the higher education ministry confirmed a funding commitment for these students, saying it had reached an agreement to allow eligible NSFAF students to register for the second semester at their institutions.

“What is important for us is to make sure that the funding that we give to students serves its purpose. From time to time, we need to get together to review the different types of programmes and courses that we consider to be fields of priority,” said NSFAF board chairperson Klemens /Awarab said at Tuesday's workshop.

He explained that the fund's scarce resources should be spread in such a way that the national mandate is fulfilled, while keeping in mind industrialisation, economic growth and the science and technology fields.

This can, however, only be achieved if the necessary skillsets are acquired, he said, therefore NSFAF needs to strategise to ensure that funding is dispersed to execute these responsibilities.

From the priorities discussed at the consultative workshop, the NSFAF board will now review and identify which fields of study they have the capacity to fund.

They will also ensure that the funds are channelled to the fields of study that will make a difference.

Higher education deputy executive director Kennedy Kandume stressed programmes that add value to the country are needed, so Namibia can achieve its Vision 2030 targets.

He added that setting priority fields of study would also guide students to make informed decisions, when it comes to their study choices. Additionally, they will have a relatively high chance of securing employment or creating jobs for others, Kandume said.

A presentation by health ministry representative Anna Suzette Haihambo-Shikongo, who deals with human resources, revealed that only four general surgeon students are receiving NSFAF assistance, and they are all studying in South Africa. She also explained there are various fields to specialise in within nursing and these specialisations should be considered for prioritisation.

Namibia Training Authority (NTA) project manager Mighty Katulo recommended that NSFAF consider more funding for the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) fields, as stakeholders are currently expanding the provision of programmes at existing vocational training centres (VTCs), with some of them moving into specialisation.

When the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) became a fully-fledged university, this left a technical gap, according to Katulo, as the institution now focuses on producing bachelor, honours and masters' graduates.

“There is a gap in level 5, level 6 and level 7. VTCs are thus going to specialise and some of the VTCs have already started preparing this year to offer programmes at level 4,” he said.

Other contributors to this discussion included delegates from local universities, the Namibia Employers' Federation, the National Planning Commission and the Namibia Statistics Agency.

Ester Kamati

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