NSFAF remains a relevant stakeholder in Namibia’s education system

Martin Endjala

Hofni Iipinge, the Swapo Party Deputy Secretary for Education, maintains that despite facing significant criticism from various Namibians, including some Members of Parliament, the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) remains an essential component of the country’s higher education sector.

As last year’s grade 11 and 12 learners anticipate admission to universities, Iipinge underscores the financial instability faced by many families.

He believes that these families will greatly benefit from their children qualifying for university education.

The proposition to completely dismantle NSFAF, as suggested by some, could have severe consequences.

When asked whether the Fund has successfully repositioned itself as a better-managed entity or if it still suffers from the same old issues of poor management and maladministration, Iipinge acknowledged that over the past four years, NSFAF has been embroiled in leadership disputes.

The suspension of its former Chief Executive Officer, which was only resolved last year, is a well-known example of these challenges.

“As the public, we have also observed efforts by the Fund to improve itself and meet the needs of students,” he remarked.

Regarding whether NSFAF, in its current form, is serving the best interests of Namibian students, Iipinge emphasized that the Fund’s effectiveness is a matter of ongoing debate and examination. He stated that opinions on whether NSFAF is performing optimally may vary based on individual experiences and perspectives.

He explained that evaluating NSFAF’s performance involves considering certain factors, especially concerning access to education. He noted that the Fund aims to increase access to tertiary education, a crucial component for human capital development and economic growth.

“NSFAF has taken steps to broaden its eligibility criteria, allowing more students to access financial assistance, and its mission aligns with the Namibian government’s objectives of enhancing educational access and addressing socio-economic disparities,” he said.

Over the years, NSFAF has faced criticism for various issues, including mismanagement, financial irregularities, corruption, and delays in disbursing funds to students, which affect their ability to cover tuition fees and other expenses on time.

Iipinge believes that NSFAF’s effectiveness in its current form can be influenced by multiple factors, including leadership, financial stability, and the broader educational and economic context in the country.

“To determine whether NSFAF is serving the best interests of students, it is essential to consider these factors, evaluate the Fund’s current status, and identify areas where improvements are needed, which, I believe, were the factors considered when the decision to reintegrate the Fund into the Ministry of Higher Education was made,” he argued.

Iipinge further emphasized the importance of NSFAF, whether as a standalone institution or under the Ministry of Higher Education, addressing its challenges, improving transparency and accountability, and ensuring that its financial assistance programs effectively meet the needs of Namibian students pursuing higher education.

He believes that transforming NSFAF from an organization plagued by scandals into a successful, well-managed institution requires a multi-faceted approach that involves various stakeholders.

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