A misunderstanding between the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) and education students at the University of Namibia has resulted in education students not receiving funding.
Two years ago, the grant allocation system made provision for students studying education to receive grants or loans when they made applications to NSFAF without dispute, as invitations were made by the Ministry of Education (MoE) in 2012 for interested individuals to apply for study bursaries.
However, this year, some First year education students at UNAM Khomasdal Campus will be expected to cover their education fees for this academic year after failing to apply for grants. The tuition fees is about N$16 000 excluding the registration fee of about N$5 000 annually.
NSFAF spokesperson, Fillemon Wise Immanuel, said that NSFAF has no policy that speaks to the automatic funding for certain students, as the fund expect all students to comply with specific procedures and meeting particular requirements before they are awarded or approved for funding.
“Our rules of engagement dictate that students seeking financial assistance should apply and submit their application forms before the set deadline in order for their applications to be worthy of consideration. Often the application process runs for three months and this duration, for all intents and purposes, is a sufficient period for anybody who is truly in a need to effectively coordinate the submission of his/her application form,” says Immanuel.
He further noted that only students who have submitted their application forms become subject of the selection process and eventually awarding or funding exercise provided that they met the needed requirements such as citizenship, points and admission.
“It is an order that everyone should follow, if a person has not applied, there is no way she or he can be awarded and be funded.”
Furthermore, Immanuel revealed that Education is one of the courses that enjoy priority in Namibia, given the critical shortage of teachers in the country, but this does not exempt students intending to study Education from the normal application process.
This revelation comes at a time when, due to lack of qualified teachers in Namibia, MoE announced the recruitment of teachers from other SADC countries to curb the demand for qualified professionals.
Minister of Education, David Namwandi, explained that directive from the Ministry is that at least all the students who are intending to study education must be funded because there is a shortage of qualified teachers. He, however, reiterated that students should still go through procedures that are put there for NSFAF to be able to help them.
“I do not know the reason why they are not funded, perhaps they did not apply or they have applied late,” Says Namwandi.
NSFAF is currently faced with suggestions from three institutions of higher education, UNAM, PoN and IUM student representative council presidents, demanding for the loans previously paid to students to be written off.
At the same time, more than 1000 retired teachers and unqualified temporary teachers working under the MoE as teachers have been given a 1-year contract that can be renewed at the end of the period depending on the needs of teachers, an initiative not favored by the Teachers Union of Namibia, especially with the recruitment of SADC teachers for science and mathematics subjects.
President of TUN, Mohongara Kavihuha, said that the demand is not only in science and mathematics but in all subjects at all grade levels.
“We have a lot of teachers who were retired and came back to work, but they are not treated as employees. There is no job security, these people cannot even work hard because they are just there for a year,” Kavihuha said. He said offering a teacher a one-year contract is the abuse of employees by the Ministry of Education.
Kavihuha further stated that TUN is not comfortable with how these teachers are being treated and they will request the MoE to consider offering the teachers that came out of retirement contracts of between three to five years.
“Such short contracts are what we call the tantamount to abuse of workers by the ministry of education,” he added.
He further mentioned that, temporary teachers are also going through the same thing; he explained that their renewal of a one year contract in most cases is based on the willingness of the school principal, which Kavihuha said is very wrong.
“We have situations where people who taught over the year and that person gained useful experience, but if he or she did not understand each other with the principal this one year experience is thrown into a dustbin,” he said.
There should be a policy that states that if someone worked for a year and towards the end of the year the ministry did not get a qualified teacher, then the post should be returned to the person who held it before.
He also said claimed that for the next ten years, there is no way that they will be able to arrest the situation where they can say that they have all qualified teachers as the pace at which the University of Namibia is producing teachers is very slow and it is the only university producing teachers in Namibia.
He further noted that the government officials take long to understand whatever is proposed by the union, and that somewhere along the line, they will react to the proposals. Kavihuha is against the importing of teachers from other SADC countries, saying that not country in SADC that can say it has all qualified or enough teachers. “Those are just people that are looking for greener pastures. It is not that teachers are overflowing in their countries,” Kavihuha emphasized.
Alfred Ilukena, the Permanent Secretary in the MoE, said that if someone is retired, they cannot be employed twice.
“In terms of the public service, the person retires after doing their part until you reach your retirement age and all your benefits will be paid. If you have to come back, we as the Ministry, have to request you to come back and we agree that we will only bring you back on a one year contract,” he explained.
He added that it is done that way because everything that revolves around your file has already been closed, and you will not be charged for benefits again. One cannot be employed or given a contract of more than a year, because it will then seem as if you are permanently employed, which is not the case is.
He also added that one reason that the retired teachers cannot be permanently employed is that there are teachers being produced by UNAM every year, and they are expected to take over the positions held by the retired teachers. He referred to this process as a way of assisting while the government is getting new graduates. Ilukena said that in cases were qualified teachers show up in the middle of the year, the MoE does not consider getting the retired teacher who is assisting out of work but waits until the year ends. Ilukena further explained that the renewal of the contracts is based on the availability of qualified teachers and on the performances of the individual
He also touched on the issue of qualified teachers who do not find places to work. “We fought and liberated this country as one nation and it becomes unfair for professionals when we begin to pick and choose where we want to work.
If you are choosing where to work, then you are not looking for job, as true Namibian who is professional you were supposed to serve your nation in any region of the country,” says Ilukena, explaining that most teachers prefer to work schools located in the urban areas.
Haitembu Moses, who is currently a temporary teacher in the MoE, confirmed that it is the process of the Ministry that a one year contract is offered to him.
“This contract is always terminated towards the end of the year, and it requires you to reapply again. There times when one apply and without knowing the qualified teachers apply , that means that you will not make it because there is a qualified person than you,” Haitembu said.