Govt reneges on 304 students in China

By Eliaser Ndeyanale

GOVERNMENT has backtracked from its initial promise to provide financial support to all Namibian students in China to alleviate their condition under the restrictions brought on by the outbreak of Covid-19 in that country.

Students there say they are unable to buy food or even the compulsory face masks in the Asian country, as most of them are self-funded. They mostly depend on their families for financial support.

They told Confidente that they had asked Namibia’s Ambassador to China Elia Kaiyamo for food aid and masks but he had allegedly dismissed their request, asking “Since when does the embassy give food to students?”

The students who spoke to Confidente said at the time they lacked surgical masks and the recommended K95 masks, which were completely sold out at local shops.

On 27 February, Ambassador Kaiyamo informed students in a letter that funds would be disbursed to them. Kaiyamo said some students were going to be paid between US$200 (N$3 734) and US$180  (N$3 347)but three weeks later, he informed them that only 27 out of 331 would be paid US$200 each.

In his initial letter Kaiyamo wrote to confirm that the mission would disburse a once-off grant of US$200, equivalent to RMB 1 529. In Namibian currency it equals N$3 734 that would be given to the 27 students in Wuhan city, while the rest of the students on the mainland would receive US$180 each.

“Please note that, the Mission is busy verifying the numbers in Mainland China, as a result the disbursement of funds will only be commenced as soon as the verification process is completed,” Kaiyamo said in his letter.

But to their dismay, on 19 March Kaiyamo said the embassy would no longer disburse the funds as financial assistance was only earmarked for 27 students studying in Wuhan, not all the Namibian students in China as earlier communicated.

“This directive was contained in a letter received from headquarters, dated 10 March 2020, referenced 1/1/34/1. This Mission deeply regrets the inconvenience that this may have caused and wishes to further inform that the contents of this letter supersede and precludes the contents of the above-quoted correspondences,” he wrote.

The leader of the students’ association in China, Junias Haufiku, responded to his letter accusing the ambassador’s office of not being transparent in their dealings with the students. Haufiku said the students in Mainland China faced the same problems as their counterparts in Wuhan.

“Food costs about three or four times more than they used to prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. Their (students) finances cannot handle that burden. The same goes for masks, they are expensive… their respective universities help where they can but it is still not enough.

“The students feel neglected by the Namibian government, as they are in a foreign country far away from their home and families and they have not received the same assistance as the students in Wuhan.

“The student leaders of the Namibian Student Association in China have been ridiculed, disrespected, as well as faced accusation of alleged corruption with regards to the cancellation of the student financial funds,” Haufiku wrote to Kaiyamo.

Contacted for comment, Ambassador Kaiyamo said “I advise you send your request to the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation.” Without going into details, the executive director in that ministry Selma Ashipala-Musayvi, said the ministry had “comprehensively and exhaustively” addressed the matter two weeks ago.