Unam cancels exams over student debts
Following protests on Monday at the University of Namibia (Unam), where fired-up students tore up exam timetables, the university management took a bold last-minute decision to cancel all examinations scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Unam was forced to cancel the scheduled examinations as students ripped up exam timetables to protest the fact that many are not allowed into the exam room due to outstanding tuition fees, which collectively run into millions of dollars.
Exams that were due to be written yesterday were thus abruptly cancelled to avoid chaos on campus.
The students – many of whom are deeply indebted – were protesting over what they called the “no pay, no exam” policy, which stipulates that students with outstanding fees will not be allowed to write exams.
The protesting students yesterday demanded that Unam allow everyone to write and to rather withhold students’ results until their accounts have been settled in full.
Unam’s examination policy states that students may not access exam venues without a timetable.
Although many students were able to settle their outstanding fees in time, a handful of students were not able to.
Unam management yesterday pointed out that the collective student debt declined from a historic peak of N$255 million to N$145.39 million earlier in 2016.
By August, Unam student debt stood at a massive of N$255 million, which has since been reduced by half. Thus the university could allow more students to sit for their final exams.
The reduction shows that Unam students paid off about N$100 million of the debt in just two months.
By October 6, about 13 616 registered students still owed the university a balance of N$145.39 million, compared to 19 130 students, who had not settled their bills by August.
About 8 165 students, who discontinued their studies last year still owe N$51.3 million in total.
After extensive consultations on the 2016 end of year exams Unam management on Monday had to take some tough decisions, such as cancelling the scheduled exams.
The new dates for the exams that were due to take place Monday and Tuesday will be announced in due course.
Unam vice chancellor Lazarus Hangula said exams would commence on Thursday, October 20.
The vice chancellor said he would present the Unam SRC petition to the University Council.
“Decisions emanating from [council] deliberations will be made known,” he said.
However, Unam Student Representative Council (SRC) president Victoria Shipale said the students would protest until Thursday when exams are expected to resume.
Unam’s management further decided that timetables for Windhoek main campus students were to be made available for the law and nursing faculties by 14h00 yesterday. Timetables for all other faculties will be made available at 08h00 today.
This is not the first time the SRC at the main campus submit a petition regarding the university’s decision to bar those who have not settled their tuition fees from writing exams.
Previously, after the students protested in numbers, Unam allowed those who had paid half their outstanding fees to sit for exams.
This week Unam indicated that students may sit for the exams, provided they settle at least half of their dues, while international students are obliged to settle their debt in full in order to write the exams.
Although initially the students could access and print their timetables straight from the online portal, the university on Monday sent out a memo that no student will be allowed to print such timetable, as the correct schedule needed to enter the exam room will only be issued by Unam.
The ballooning student debt comes after Unam, as well as the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), in conjunction with the Ministry of Higher Education, agreed earlier this year to allow students to register without having to pay fees upfront, after thousands of students protested against what they consider excessively high tuition fees.
Unam said the debt is a consequence of the #feesmustfall protests at the beginning of this year, which led to smaller deposits for many students and larger outstanding fees from the start of the year.