Opinion – State university funding is the basic right of students
Prof. Jairos Kangira
Saima Nangolo passed her 12th grade exams with excellent grades and received a total of 42 points. Since her parents have no money to go to college, she stays in her rural home for a year until she somehow learns that she can get government funding to continue her medical studies. She applies for state funding through the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) and is enrolled to study at a local higher education institution. While Saima’s story may seem like fiction, there are students out there who, for one reason or another, don’t know that funding for higher education is their fundamental right.
Among the notable successes the government has had in forming the nation since gaining independence in 1990 is the establishment of the Namibia Students Assistance Fund (NSFAF) through a law of parliament (Law 26 of 2000) into which billions the higher education sector was pumped by dollars. In my research into government higher education funding, I found that countries like Brazil, the United Kingdom, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India and Indonesia invest billions of dollars in their higher education sectors every year.
The reason for comparing these countries is to show that Namibia is pointing in the right direction in this regard. It is very impressive to note that the NSFAF has funded hundreds of thousands of Namibian students in higher education. Some of these students would otherwise not have known what higher education is because of their poor background. With the Student Loan Scheme, the NSFAF finances Namibian students to study or research at NQA accredited or recognized higher education institutions. Although higher education institutions tell students about NSFAF, some of them think that if they receive funding it is free money that they don’t have to repay. That’s not the case. In order for the NSFAF to be self-sufficient, it must get back the advanced loans. The intent is to have a self-sufficient facility where students who are granted loans are likely to receive repayment. The NSFAF uses an income-based model to repay the loan. This means that the beneficiaries are expected to repay the loan only after graduation and after securing employment.
The repayment of the loan is associated with a minimum interest rate. Successfully completing degree programs and securing employment are therefore key to the NSFAF’s ability to fund more students. Given the high unemployment rate among graduates, efforts to raise all funds are often unsuccessful, posing a great threat to NSFAF’s operations. In her study entitled The effectiveness of the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund in loan repayment, Johanna Fransiska Kanelombe (2019) came to the conclusion: “The majority of former beneficiaries did not repay the loan because, among other things, they did not receive their salary enough to repay and still be able to provide for their families and because some are unemployed. Hence, it can be concluded that the main finding of the study is that the NSFAF is not getting credit back effectively. The fund was also unable to get back loans due to untraceable candidates. From the results of the investigation, it was concluded that the NSFAF was unsuccessful in getting loans back. “
Tertiary students have often complained about late payments of NSFAF funds, which has created many inconveniences as higher education institutions often withhold student results until full payments are made. The challenge the NSFAF faces in this regard is that it is largely funded by the state, whose budget is approved in April each year. Thus, the academic year (January to December) is not parallel to the fiscal year (April to March). After appropriation, the money is released in pieces according to the state cash flow management. This means that the NSFAF does not receive the entire allocation at once, but rather in parts. These are facts that customers may not know. Sometimes higher education institutions do not send exact invoices to the NSFAF either. This leads to a delay in the disbursement of the funds to the beneficiaries.
It has been suggested that an established source of income to fund the Namibian child is a welcome gesture in making the NSFAF viable. For example, people have spoken out in favor of offering the NSFAF fishing quotas. It is argued that establishing an income stream will ease the burden on the Treasury Department.
Funds that are sometimes not paid back are grants. For example, for the period from 1997 to 2019, N $ 7.5 billion was disbursed, of which N $ 5.6 billion in loans and N $ 1.9 billion in grants. The beneficiary is not obliged to repay the grant. Likewise, only loans that are due are repayable, which means that these beneficiaries should have completed their studies and secured employment.
It is very commendable that the NSFAF supported many students in the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to simplify e-learning, the NSFAF has purchased 28,000 Internet devices with 10 GigaBytes per second and month, which are currently being distributed to the students. In addition, the Namibia University of Science and Technology was given N $ 2.4 million to upgrade its servers / storage and expand the institutional bandwidth.
The University of Namibia received N $ 7 million, which was used to upgrade its server / storage facilities for the use and accommodation of e-learning platforms from other higher education institutions. NSFAF is also in the process of purchasing laptops for all students in need, both NSFAF-funded and privately-funded students. Namibian students studying abroad received a one-time payment of up to $ 250 per student to help cushion them during the pandemic.
The NSFAF disseminates information about its services through television, radio, social media, the NSFAF website, educational events at schools or universities, parent and student meetings, and trade shows. NSFAF services are fully automated. If you have any questions, these two e-mail addresses are important: [email protected] and [email protected] The following telephone numbers are immediately available: 264-614346012 / 13/83. Information can also be found under www.nsfaf.na.
Ultimately, there is no doubt that the NSFAF continues to serve the higher education sector by providing funding for students to realize their educational dreams. A long-term solution to increasing the Treasury Fund is to create a source of income for the NSFAF.