Intake of pastors halted as Paulinum sinks into debt

By Maria Kandjungu

THE management of the biggest theological training institution for pastors in Namibia is faced with a grim choice of deciding whether to close the United Lutheran Theological Seminary Paulinum due to overwhelming and recurring municipal debts, amounting to close to N$ 1million.

Although the institution held a couple of activities last year in an effort to bring under control their bulging municipal bill, the funds raised from these activities have not been enough to secure the institution’s future.

Confidente understands that there will be no new intake of pastors this year and that the final decision on how long the hiatus will remain in force has not yet been taken, as the seminary’s management and stakeholders are yet to hold series of meetings to decide the future of the institution.

The institution’s rector, Dr Daniel Ndemuweda confirmed to Confidente that due to financial pressures they have halted the intake of pastors and said a decision on the future of the seminary has not yet been reached.

“We have been having financial problems and it was proposed that we do not take in students this year while we look at the future of the institution… The institution is not closed. We are trying to handle the bill and the meetings are looking at alternative ways but we not closed.”

As to whether he foresees the permanent closure of the institution, Ndemuweda told Confidente that this would only be determined after meetings and discussions with all affected parties have been concluded.

“Right now I cannot tell you what will happen to the institution, we are meeting to weigh our options and a decision has not been made yet.”

In 2018, Confidente reported news that the Theological Seminary Paulinum, based in Pionierspark Windhoek, was going through financial dire straits that could threaten its very survival. At the time, the institution’s outstanding municipal bill was reported to be about N$400,000 but by last July it had ballooned to around a million dollars.

This drove the management to roll out a number of fund-raising activities to avert the risks of closure. At the time, the rector was still hopeful that the success of those initiatives could help the seminary stay afloat. He admitted though that the debts had ballooned at an uncontrollable rate and that the possibility of shutting down the College could not be ruled out.

He said their money woes had grown to a point where they had to shut down the seminary’s in-house kitchen, obliging respective churches and sponsors to provide food allowances for the students.

Although the financial woes of the institution date back a few years, according to Ndemuweda, the latest crisis was largely triggered when key foreign donors, including the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission and Evangelical Lutheran Mission in Germany drastically cut down on funding support.

Dwindling streams of funding from the seminary’s joint local sponsors, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia also greatly impacted its operations. The financial situation of the seminary was further worsened by the country’s weak and anaemic economy.

Confidente understands that if the institution were to clear its municipal arrears, they would look to move off the electrical grid system to a solar-powered system to reduce their burgeoning electricity expenses. Such a solar project, Ndemuweda said, would cost in the region of N$2.2 million to set up.