Finding a solution to corruption in tertiary institutions

The Law Students’ Council of the University of Namibia (Unam) hosted a panel discussion to find out what the causes of corruption in different universities are.

17 April 2018 | Education

Tunohole Mungoba

Last week student representatives from different tertiary institutions came together to dissect what the root cause of corruption in their institutions are. Many representatives argued that corruption in tertiary institutions serves as a lucrative business to those who easily fall victim to social pressures of seeing a colleague drive a nice car while you are still taking taxi.

According to Webster Likando, the assistant bursary officer of Unam, corruption is not only limited to stealing. “Stealing is a component of corruption but that is a very broad term and all unethical doings that you want hidden can fall under corruption,” he said.

Likando explained that universities in Namibia receives subsidies to contribute to the expenses of the institution, but that those subsidies do not cover everything. According to him this results in universities sourcing other financial means to cover expenses. “There are so many factors that can lead to corruption among university officials. Having a poor salary for example is one. You receive constant peer pressure about a certain lifestyle that you cannot afford so you are forced to look at other means to fund a certain way of living,” he said.

He told the audience that internal auditors and risk and compliance officers try to ensure corruption, the mismanagement of funds and under the table payments do not take place, however, according to him “this cannot be 100% guaranteed”.

He further explained that corruption compromises the integrity of institutions and argues that the success and productivity of the school is reduced as students will have limited resources to receive quality education.

He is of the opinion that cultivating a spirit of integrity at a young age is crucial in combating future corruption. “We need to start teaching our children that corruption is wrong and that there are so many other ways to make a life for yourself. Only through this can we curb it before it even begins.”

“Time to eat” syndrome

Simon Taapopi, the Namibia National Students' Organisation’s (Nanso) secretary general, said the country is suffering from the “time to eat syndrome” and this results in high levels of corruption in tertiary intuitions. “Basically many people get into a managerial position they often lose focus on improving the quality of education and instead focus on how they can squander funds,” Taapopi said.

He says the poor socio-economic status of many Namibians contribute to the phenomenon as “most people are not fortunate enough to have grown up in comfortable homes”. Taapopi applauded Unam for hosting the talk and added the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) and the Anti-Corruption Commission should have been part of the conversation.

He questioned the fact that tertiary fees are being increased annually even though students do not see the justification of these increases. “Students are not getting the value for their money. We do not see any new lecture halls being built or new computers in the labs, but school fees must be increased. This does not make sense,” he said.

Although Namibia does have a number of youth representative organisations, Taapopi said youth involvement is very limited. “They invite us to attend these meetings, but your opinions are not valued. You will be sent around to make copies and serve coffee for the ‘elders’. We should do away with this mentality and respect everyone; regardless of age,” he said.

Poverty is not an excuse

Marvellous Shilongo, SRC president of the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust), disagreed with Taapopi’s. “If we all blame our backgrounds for the crimes we have committed, this country would not be where it is today. As much as situations like these are tempting, we need to know the difference between right and wrong,” she said.

Shilongo also requested that universities should have funds set aside for students who do not have NSFAF loans. “We get special cases where students apply for NSFAF loans late, then they do not receive the loan and during the semester they come crying to my office wanting to deregister. If money is made available for these students, cases like these can be avoided,” she said.

She also warned students against paying other students to do their assignments as this can also be categorised as corruption. “Even a ‘simple thing’ like cheating on your tests is corruption. It starts that small, but you need to know when to stop,” she warned. She also added that some students deprive other students that are in dire need of the loans by just applying for the NSFAF loan to get the refunds.

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