Andrew Kathindi & Kelvin Chiringa
Namibia Students’ Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) acting CEO, Kennedy Kandume, has confirmed that the process to dissolve the institution has begun.
On Wednesday, Windhoek Mayor Job Amupanda said that the minister of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation Itah Kandji-Murangi had decided to dissolve the fund, alleging that it will result in the “awarding of loans by the minister probably only to politically connected students.”
When quizzed on whether the process had started, Kandume told The Villager, “Yes, I am aware of this that there is such a process taking place. But the modalities and everything else, please speak to the ministry.”
When approached for comment, Murangi said the decision was taken by Cabinet and not her.
“NASFAF has been and is still under transformation. And that was sanctioned by cabinet.”
In 2018, the higher education ministry put out adverts in which it invited consulting companies to “assess the status of NSFAF” with an envisaged plan to integrate the fund as a department within the ministry.
“In order to guide the process, it is necessary to understand all aspects and challenges of NSFAF. A report will be compiled and discussed with stakeholders,” Murangi is quoted as saying in media reports.
The impending fall of NSFAF has drawn a mixture of reactions from student bodies and economists.
The Landless People’s Movement Student Command Element leader Duminga Ndala said the move was welcome and had been overdue.
She said NSFAF has over the years since inception short-changed students by dividing its budget between student funding and salaries.
Ndala says they are expecting a ministerial department that is lean in structure and led by none of the two CEOs, Kandume and (Hilya) Nghiwete.
“From a student perspective, we are moving in the right direction. More funding will be redirected to the students. When it was an institution on its own, students used to complain and also NSFAF was incapable of funding most of the students because they gave excuses that they had to pay a lot of expenses,” she said.
Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) secretary for education, Hofni Ipinge, said the move was welcome but added that they had not been consulted on the matter as a stakeholder.
“NSFAF was really failing to execute their mandate. There was a call, I remember two years ago, that if NSFAF cannot be able to execute its mandate it is better to recall the institution back to the ministry of higher education or to the ministry of finance just for control purposes, but it was never done. I can assure you that we were part of that meeting.
“Now they are saying the process is underway, (but) we were not informed as a stakeholder. It was news to us. How did they arrive at that decision? Maybe the ministry is at a better level to inform us further on how they reached that conclusion,” he said.
Ipinge also said part of the failure of NSFAF was in roping third parties to fund students and incurring huge costs in the process.
Meanwhile, former deputy president of NANSO and SUN, now spokesperson of the Affirmative Repositioning (AR), Simon Amunime, has said that this is a ploy by the higher education minister to have a tighter control of the institution.
He is calling on NSFAF to be placed rather in the hands of the finance or state-owned enterprises ministry.
Echoing this sentiment, SUN’s Tyson Hihanguapo said, “Moreover, we are aware of the plans and decision by the minister without consultation to dissolve NSFAF because of her personal issues with the reinstated CEO Mrs.
Hilya Nghiwete and (she wants her) placed under her own office.
“We condemn and reject the capturing and personalisation of state institutions by greedy and corrupt politicians. Our call is the immediate removal of the Minister of Higher Education Dr. Murangi and the dissolving of the NSFAF board and the halting of the process of paying two CEOs a combined (sum) of N$ 320 000.00 monthly remuneration. Those that are associated with corruption are indeed the enemy of the students at large,” he said.
Meanwhile, economist Dr. Omu Matundu said NSFAF was a bad idea from the start that has ended badly.
“When you start badly, you end up badly. Unless you realise that quickly and change gear. The whole underperformance of SOEs can be ascribed to many factors. Mostly unqualified boards, unqualified management and just creating something to be a milking cow without consideration of better outcomes,” he said.