08 Mar 2019 16:50pm
WINDHOEK, 08 MAR (NAMPA) The Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) paid more than N.dollars 200 million since 2014 in tuition fees for medical students at foreign universities that are neither vetted nor recognised by the Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA).
N.dollars 43 million was paid in 2014, N.dollars 56.6 million in 2015, N.dollars 50.3 million in 2016 and N.dollars 44.6 million in 2017.
Last year, the fund disbursed N.dollars 27 million to medical students pursuing their studies beyond the Namibian shores.
This information is contained in a document presented to the National Assembly on Thursday by Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation Dr Becky Ndjoze-Ojo, in which she detailed how Government funded medical students who may never ply their trade locally due to their failure to meet the standards.
She was responding to questions by Popular Democratic Movement parliamentarian, Nico Smit, who asked the ministry why Government spent millions of dollars in taxpayer money without following proper screening processes.
The payouts were made at time when NSFAF did not have a proper funding policy in place.
The majority was awarded in 2014 when the then NSFAF award policy made provision to award whoever was admitted, to whatever institutions of higher learning and with whatever points, Ndjoze-Ojo said.
The only requirement NSFAF demanded from the students at the time was an admission letter.
A total of 313 students were funded based on the faulty policy.
However, in 2014, after having already awarded loans to some students, NSFAF reviewed its policy, introducing stringent conditions.
After the review, 140 new overseas medical students were added to the list.
The new medical students were required to have obtained a minimum of 35 points in five subjects to qualify for funding through NSFAF, the revised policy stated.
However, it was too little, too late to reverse the funding of the bulk of those who had not met the new requirements.
They were already being funded and are now graduating from non-accredited institutions, with qualifications that cannot be verified and authenticated, Ndjoze-Ojo said.
Of the students in question, 153 students studied in the Ukraine, 97 in China and 45 in Russia.
Upon completion of their studies, only two of the 206 foreign-trained graduates who sat for the pre-internship evaluation test conducted by the Health Professions Council of Namibia (HPCN), passed the evaluation.
Interestingly, the recognition of qualifications at completion level is inherently linked with meeting requirements and criteria at entry level.
In other words, if you dont have what it takes (35 points and above) to read medicine or engineering, you cannot have what it takes to do that at the end, no matter how hard you try, Ndjoze-Ojo said bluntly.
For the medical graduates whose qualification cannot be authenticated, the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation; Ministry of Health and Social Services; NQA, HPCN and NSFAF are in the process of developing strategies to incorporate the graduates in the local health sector.
Retraining and internship placements have been proposed to this effect.
If this fails, a way forward will be proposed, the deputy minister said.