Helena Johannes

The Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) has put the payments of student’s accommodation residing in EMONA hostel on hold over alleged excessive amounts charged to students, until students review and agree on reasonable amounts.

The request to withhold the payments was made by the Namibia National Student Organization (NANSO)

“Your request to hold 2020 payments to EMONA hostel has been considered and payments are currently on hold,” said NSFAF Acting CEO Kennedy Kandume in a statement he issued to NANSO.

He said some students accommodation payments have already been made to EMONA. “Your organization should resolve this issue with EMONA management as soon as possible so that we conclude non-tuition fee payments for the concerned students,” he said.

This comes after EMONA student hostel fees have raised the eyebrows of many students. There are allegations and concerns that the management has billed NSFAF with excessive invoices on student’s accommodation. This is at a time when the students have not resided at the hostel due to the State of the Emergency.

NANSO Secretary for information and communication Dyln Mukoroli noted that, “Our organization received more than 1,900 students complaining about the accommodation fee, more especially being charged for months they have not stayed in the hostel.”

According to Mukoroli, students are being charged an exceptional price for accommodation at EMONA, with some being charged for months they have not occupied due to the pandemic.

“Invoices sent to NSFAF are not adding up, students are being charged N$700 per month for storage of items they have left behind during the pandemic,” he said.

He added that invoices sent to NSFAF contain different amounts of about N$39,000 and N$40,000 which EMONA claimed to be the accommodation fee for the whole year.

Wynand Dreyer the executive running EMONA operations said students have signed a fixed term contract for 10 months at the beginning of the year, but due to the pandemic most had to leave and return home.

“Most private hostels and schools have charged 100 percent of these fees even when students have not reside on the premises, however we felt that we need to provide some relief to the students and have reduced their fees with 75 percent for the months that only their belongings were stored in their rooms,” Dreyer told Windhoek Observer.

He said some students have returned in June/July when COVID-19 regulations were adjusted and these students have been fully charged since their return to the hostel.

“We understand that this year has been unique and therefore our engagement with the students is that they need to make arrangements with our office regarding the payments. Each student is an individual and each student’s situation is different, so the arrangements will also be different for each student,” he said.

Dreyer said the invoices sent to NSFAF have been based on the award letters from students and using the same principle of only the 25 percent charge for the time that they have not stayed in the hostel.

Regarding the high prices of student’s accommodation at EMONA, Dreyer said “I would like to have some examples of this? If a student has been on NSFAF and their 2019 fees have not been paid, it would also be included in the 2020 invoices forwarded to NSFAF which will lead to an increase in amount.”

He however remained mum on whether students will be evicted if they fail to pay their outstanding accommodation fees after NSFAF has put the payments on hold.

“We are busy following the appropriate channels to resolve the matter. At this stage I cannot give any more details,” Dreyer said.

The University of Namibia (UNAM) SRC Vice President Phillipus Hamunyela said the University student representative is in agreement with NANSO for payments to remain on hold until the issue is resolved. However, they have suggested that NSFAF pays student’s non-tuition fees directly to students instead of EMONA, so that students pay the hostel themselves.

“It was unfair for EMONA to not inform students about the amount they have to pay for months they have not resided in the hostel, and for that matter some students invoice sent to NSFAF contain the amount of months that students have not been in the hostel,” he said.

Hamunyela said student’s accommodation fee ranges from N$2,500 to N$3,100 per month, depending on a chosen size of room.