Continue to pay back the money NSFAF beneficiaries!

THE emerging reality that hundreds of Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) beneficiaries who were reluctant to repay their study loans have revisited this positing and resorted to pay, is a positive development which may not only lead to the survival of the Fund, but also rescue many other disadvantaged prospective beneficiaries.

Recently, the Fund had threatened that 52 000 student loan defaulters would see their names in local newspapers countrywide in a name and shame attempt after which “appropriate legal action” would follow.

“We are, therefore, encouraging all defaulters whom we have communicated with via SMS, but who failed to engage the NSFAF, to once again contact us at recovery before the commencement of the mass publication,” a statement from the Fund published last week read in part.

While this threat appears to be bearing fruit, it remains imperative that NSFAF remains resilient in pursuit of what it is owed for the benefit of its future existence.

A student debt crisis has become a hot-button issue in Namibia, where outstanding student loans have reached N$5.2 billion with NSFAF having dispersed funds to 131 000 Namibians from 1997 to 2019, spending N$7.5 billion on loans and grants.

Indeed, the disquiet over student debts and the handling of this situation in Namibia takes place within a global context, in which higher education institutions are wrestling with questions about funding models, debt and sustainability, exacerbated by the devastating economic consequences of Covid-19.

Across Africa, money struggles in the sector are evident as both students and staff are protesting about the consequences of financially weak higher education systems.

However in our case, many of the defaulters are those that are now economically stable to pay back their loans.

It is our considerable view that those very same defaulters must be able to understand that the money they owe should be going back to NSFAF to assist other students from poor backgrounds, who should be assisted in the same way as those beneficiaries who are now employed.

Furthermore and despite this money being crucial and having a huge impact on the running of the organisation, its successful recovery would create greater scope for funding students’ studies which would subsequently accelerate Namibia’s developmental agenda.

Realistically and amid the ravaging implications of Covid-19 which has seen drastic revenue shortfalls in the fiscus, it is common knowledge that government is not in a position to bail out NSFAF and for that reason, the Fund must be self-sustaining.

This, in all fairness, is impossible if those that have been assisted with loans assume that those loans were grants. Now more than ever, defaulters need to share the responsibility of future generations which also deserve tertiary education by paying back the money!