After a surge of 30% in students numbers this year, the government has agreed to support the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) – regardless of the number of loans allocated to students.
The Ministry of Finance and Public Enterprises has increased the fund’s allocation with N$400 million from its original allocation of N$1,6 billion.
The fund has been struggling to recoup N$9 billion in loans extended to 132 000 beneficiaries.
The deputy director of higher education, Raimo Naanda, yesterday said the government will not cap the number of students the fund supports.
Naanda, along with NSFAF acting head Kennedy Kandume, were responding to media questions during the announcement of NSFAF loans to tertiary students.
“The youth population is growing exponentially and as such, there is no way we can put a cap on the number of students to be sponsored,” he said.
Kandume said the fund has spoken to the treasury about the dilemma of accommodating 5 082 more students, which agreed to increase the fund’s allocation from N$1,68 billion to N$2 billion.
He said the fund has currently extended loans amounting to N$1,1 billion dollars to beneficiaries.
“That leaves roughly about N$390 million for new intakes. Our calculation at the time was that it would only cater for half of those who qualified, so we had to go back to the treasury,” Kandume said.
He said another option was for the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation to redirect funds in its budget to the NSFAF.
Finance ministry spokesperson Wilson Shikoto has confirmed that the ministry’s allocation has increased to N$2 billion.
Naanda announced that 22 178 students have been approved for loans, while 7 946 were unsuccessful.
Kandume yesterday said this is 30% more students than last year, when the fund granted 17 096 loans.
The NSFAF received 30 124 loan applications, he said.
This also represents an increase from the previous year (23 696).
The fund extended loans to 15 807 undergraduate students out of 21 014 applications, 6 064 technical and vocational education and training students out of 7 233, and 307 postgraduate students out of 1 877.
The students have 60 days to sign contracts with the fund.
Last year, 147 did not sign their contracts within this period and forfeited their loans.
Kandume yesterday denied that the NSFAF is struggling to pay universities within the time period required, which keeps students from writing examinations.
This usually leads to talks between the universities, student representatives, and the NSFAF.
“We are not really struggling to pay the institutions. Of course, the institutions are not paid at the beginning of the financial year in time,” he said.
The fund has blamed members of the National Assembly for delaying payments to universities.
Kandume said the drawn out budget processes and recent boycott at the National Assembly have delayed the approval of the appropriation bill.
“You may recall that there was something with parliamentarians. Some members walked out. It delayed the bill,” he said.
This, he said, was the reason why the fund did not make universities’ deadline.
“The first payment was done by 16 April for tuition and non-tuition fees. The second payment immediately followed in May that year,” he said.
Kandume said the fund was almost paid up, with 20% outstanding allocations.
“Part of the allocation that made up the budget of about N$146 million last year was additional appropriation during the budget review in October, but those funds were only available to NSFAF in December until the parliament passed the [appropriation bill].
Source : TheNamibian