by Faith Sankwasa
15 July 2013
The Minister of Education, Dr David Namwandi, has told a Malaysian college to adjust several aspects of its operations that have reportedly caused suffering among Namibian students - or he would seek advice on his course of action.
Namwandi, who on Friday called for stricter checking of overseas colleges and universities before Namibians are sent there, told Namibian Sun that a deadline has been set for Binary College to rectify its educational facilities, amongst many other flaws.
On Saturday in Kuala Lumpur, prior to Namwandi giving the college management an ultimatum, he met with over 100 students studying in the South-East Asian country, who told him about the hardship they claim to be suffering at the hands of their universities.
The Malaysian university saga came to the fore following a lengthy email sent to this newspaper in which 45 students at Binary College alleged that they are made to pay for basic necessities and that they are going hungry despite having full scholarships.
The 45 students that left for Malaysia on May 2 said their experience has made them understand why Namibians studying abroad turn to prostitution and drugs.
They claimed that they have to pay for water, electricity, gas for cooking, stationery and transport to and from college. The students receive a monthly allowance of N$3 000.
Namwandi said there are many 'hiccups' at Binary College that need drastic change.
He said the Namibian embassy in Kuala Lumpur would from now on visit the universities and colleges where Namibian citizens are studying.
"I am still dissatisfied with the whole atmosphere surrounding how many tertiary institutions are run. My students are unhappy over the quality of education they are receiving; hence I have told the specific institution [Binary College] to make some major changes.
"I have also informed our mission to conduct visitation from time to time with the aim of checking on the well-being of the Namibian students and report on any continued mistreatment.
"If Binary College does not meet my deadline date, for the overall aim of making the Namibian students' life at campus comfortable, an unspecified action will be taken against them," Namwandi said.
Last week, Namwandi said Malaysia is not the only country Namibians studying abroad have complained about, adding that it appeared in some instances that the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) had not thoroughly checked whether an overseas institution was suitable for local students to go and study there.
The 45 students at Binary College said they are kept isolated and are virtual prisoners there.
In the email, the students claimed that they are made to attend lectures in the same classrooms despite studying different courses, including entrepreneurship, information technology (IT), transport and logistics, event management, agriculture and hotel management.
They further claimed that they do not write tests and are evaluated through group assignments.
They also questioned the non-existence of the facilities that are bragged with on the college's website, such as computers, wireless internet and indoor sport activities, saying the institution is misrepresenting itself.
"We now perfectly understand why scholarship students turn to prostitution and drugs. We left our jobs, our kids and our families behind because we were under the illusion that we are going to better our lives and now we are suffering," reads part of the letter.
The students also questioned why no NSFAF officials ever visited the university to assess living conditions there.
"Binary College is a rather questionable institution that is very good at misrepresenting itself. This institute is of the lowest quality and is in fact just a college, not a university at all," the Namibian students claimed.
Namwandi said he would look into the NSFAF's recommendations of overseas universities upon his return to Namibia tomorrow.