University of Namibia resolves student protests

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The issue of fees for tertiary education is not unique to South Africa, last week this was evident when students at the University of Namibia (UNAM) began protesting on Monday, October 17. UNAM students took to protesting after management announced that students who had not paid at least 50% of their fees would not be allowed to write their exams.

The Student Representative Council (SRC) formed a petition which was received by the Vice-Chancellor, Lazarus Hangura, on October 17. That day, the university released a media statement in which Hangura “further committed himself to present the UNAM SRC petition to the University council.” The UNAM student protest affected the examinations which were scheduled for October 18 and 19. University management had to postpone and reschedule these examinations. It was later announced on October 17 that exams would commence on October 20.

Two days later on Wednesday, October 19, a joint media statement concerning 2016 tuition fees and exams was published by university management and the SRC. The media statement showed an agreement, which had been approved by UNAM council, concerning what students in different financial positions should do.

Students with genuine financial constraints would be allowed to write exams but had to first consult the Office of the Dean of Students (ODS) to verify the legitimacy of their case. Students who are not in financial need or unable to settle their fees were advised to sign individual agreements with UNAM. Students owing over N$ 100 000 were informed that they must consult the ODS and the Office of the Bursar to firstly explain why the fees had escalated to such an amount and then to form an agreement on the way forward.

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According to IOL UNAM decided to bar students from writing after realising that they are owed more than N$ 145 million. It has also been reported that this is the first time the university has ordered students to pay fees before they could write their examinations. However, in previous years students with outstanding fees could write their exams but would not be allowed to collect their results until they had paid the full fees.