[Column] Dr. Eino Mvula: Namibia's educational aspiration through a solid student financial assistance system
Around the world we celebrate our diversity, our different cultures and varying opinions. One thing we all seem to have as our common trait is the desire, almost an instinct that drives us to ensure that our children have better lives than we do. More opportunities, better food, better medical care and definitely if it wasn’t available, access to better education, starting at primary school level. This requires hard work not only on the part of the parents, the community, but ultimately also a nation’s government, as all children should have access to high quality and high level education. Whatever their background.
Funding education is important. Instinctively we all understand that. However cliché it may sound, we know that the future generations will carry on what and build upon what we have achieved. However, when we look around the globe, look at our neighbouring countries or even look within Namibia, it will leave you scratching your head. There’s talk of educational cuts in different parts of the world, and rarely do we see countries increasing their spending on education. Namibia, which has been forced to tighten its belt and make difficult decisions when it comes to budget cuts cannot seem to escape the scourge of decreased spending on education.
Without education spending and investment, and let’s be honest it is the soundest investment to make a country cannot hope to prosper. Children need access to good teachers, good facilities and a path leading all the way from primary school education to as far as their minds can and will take them, without access to financial resources being a constraint. This is easier said than done. There needs to be a proper mechanism in place. What we see around the world is that countries have financial aid options for students pursuing post-secondary education, in the form of scholarships, bursaries, grants and loans. Postsecondary education has become increasingly vital to participate and succeed in the modern economy. Without proper investment, education levels will stagnate and eventually decline. In order to ensure return on investment, a system needs to be in place that administers and distributes the funds that a government makes available for education. Ensuring that money gets to the rightful institutions and is spent on the relevant studies and most deserving students. Such as system also needs to have the administrative checks and balances in place to handle and facilitate the applications for financial assistance of potential students. Student financial aid systems need to ensure that more students can afford and attend higher education.
Whichever format of student financial assistance a country chooses, choose they must as no funding for education in any form by a government will lead to a severe economic decline. Perhaps not in the short term, but certainly in the medium and long term. No matter how prosperous a country may be, or whatever their political system is, investment in education is imperative. Financial assistance for students pursing higher education are common throughout the world. Almost all developed countries, half of all African countries, one in three Latin American countries, and about one in six countries in Asia, including China, have financial assistance programs for students pursuing higher education. Whether it is the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) of South Africa, The Netherlands, Australia, Canada and even Nepal has the Student Financial Assistance Fund arrangements and Namibia has the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF), to just give a few examples.
NSFAF is strategically placed and with the financial commitment from government, it will make a meaningful contribution to achieving the bold and ambitious educational targets that Namibia has set for itself. This is our mandate as an organization, which we are keen to fulfill and we will continue to be part of the investment in education.