Are education grants feasible?

The Judgement Call has been waiting for President Hage Geingob’s most crucial statement regarding education, and he made it last week.

In local daily media, the President made his position clear about the importance of subsidised education from Primary to Tertiary level by saying that tertiary education grants should be given to Namibians students as the system of loans is extreme.

We agree with the President on this but we also need to ask serious questions. Is where this financially feasible for government to award grants to students instead of loans which it already is doing in some cases?

We would also have appreciated knowing whether the President was making a plea with the Ministry of Education and NSFAF, as the gate keepers of education financing, or whether he was giving us a scoop of his directives to MoE to start drafting a plan.

He made himself the man of the hour because education is a very important factor to the Nation. We have only lagged behind after independence because education seemed too inaccessible to some children due to financial restraints.

We have since taken a big step with universal primary education, and are looking at the implementation of the same thing at secondary level. Talks of education grants at tertiary level are a welcomed suggestion as it would lift the burden of hefty school tuition fees.

We also need to sit down and talk about the magnitude of this if it’s to be implemented or considered for the future. In previous articles analysts speaking to The Villager said that the burden of tertiary fees on government would be to extreme and might comprise the quality of education at tertiary levels as tertiary fees are used for the operations of institutions, especially in acquiring expertise in lecturing.

This would probably also mean that the conditions of tertiary entry would become heavier and might result in less enrolments which Namibia cannot afford, as Namibia is already lacking the work force in crucial fields such as health, engineering, education and manufacturing. We would like to hear the President’s motivation regarding how we are going to go around this financially.

The two main tertiary institutions Unam and Polytechnic have already complained that even with student tertiary fees and subsidies from government they still come up short as those funds are not enough for the institutions to run annually.

Polytechnic Rector Tjama Tjivikua has constantly come out to say that the institution should be getting more subsidies from government and even with his motivation government has not been able to cover those.

With talks of education grants which easily translates to free education, we need to think about the burden on tax payers because they are the ones who would have to pay the price. Government will not be able to carry this alone and tax payers already give a hefty amount in taxes. We have already established that our other finance sources such as SACU are suffering in giving us revenue so that is out of the question.

Recently South Africa’s government saw a rise up by students because of hefty tertiary fees, and Namibia cannot distance itself from this as we are looking at a crisis of affordability with increments of tertiary fees annually.

All these fancy advisors should put their heads together and find common ground that will not drive students out of school to go and drive taxis because going to school has become too expensive. At the same time, they should ensure that government coffers do not go dry while trying to provide free tertiary education for all.

We would have to invest in new money generating ideas to make this a comfortable process without sacrificing any of the parties involved.