by Dwight Links

NAMIBIAN students in various fields of study in Ukraine are facing financial hardships during that country’s lockdown as the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) has not paid for their upkeep.

The Namibian understand that NSFAF was supposed to pay the students an allowance of N$14 148 in April for food and other personal expenses.

The plight of the students in Ukraine is similar to that of Namibian medical students in Russia who told The Namibian last week that they are stranded because the health ministry has not paid their allowances.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, five students in Ukraine said their efforts to get assistance is falling on deaf ears.

“We have been trying to get NSFAF to help us with funding as the exchange rate has increased drastically during the lockdown for Ukraine and that of Namibia,” a student told The Namibian via Zoom on Friday.

Timoteus Ipito, the representative of Namibian students in Ukraine said the chief executive of NSFAF, Kennedy Kandume, had told them their request was outside of budget and will require further motivation.

Kandume’s letter, seen by The Namibian, also says if the students are not happy with this reply, they will have to seek assistance from the Namibian embassy in Moscow, Russia.

“Our issue is that it seems that officials at NSFAF and the embassy in Moscow do not realise that we are in a dire situation. We have to write exams in a week’s time, and we require extra support for those who are final year students,” Ipito told The Namibian.

“We have students from India, whose government evacuated them without any extra costs to the students.

“We are only about 150 Namibian students in Ukraine. The country is not at all welcoming to foreigners, no matter where you come from. This is not the most accommodating place,” he said.

There are other Namibian students in Ukraine on funding from their parents. Ipito said these students are worse affected than the NSFAF-funded ones, and the relief he requested also covers these Namibians.

HEALTH HAZARDS

Other hardships the students face are the potential health hazards from the cleaning staff working at their hostels.

A female student said these workers do not wear masks or protective gear when they enter the hostels.

“These workers live off campus, and we do not know whether they have been tested or screened properly,” she added.

According to the students, during the Ukraine lockdown, the Namibian embassy in Moscow did not try to establish whether they are all right.

To compound matters, the Ukrainian institutions are continuing their classes and tests online and the students have to purchase data bundles.

The students also wrote to president Hage Geingob. A local newspaper last week reported that the president gave this letter to the ministry of higher education to work on.

FLIGHT COSTS

The students tried to find out from the embassy whether they could be flown home if the situation does not improve.

“We were referred to Air Namibia by the embassy in Moscow, as they told us to speak directly to the national carrier,” another female student who did not wish to be identified said.

The overall costs would be between N$45 000 and N$50 000 including the flight from Kiev to Frankfurt to connect with Air Namibia to fly back home. Kandume could not be reached for comment.

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