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Students request NMDS extension

Nthatuoa Koeshe

STUDENTS at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) have wasted no time in tabling their grievances to new Development Planning minister Selibe Mochoboroane.

Days after Mr Mochoboroane’s inauguration into cabinet on 22 May 2020, the students on Tuesday requested that the government extends their National Manpower Development Secretariat student loans to match their prolonged school year. The loans are disbursed monthly when the students are in school and cease during semester breaks.

The NMDS is mandated with paying tuition fees, costs of research, book allowances, accommodation and food allowances among other costs for selected students. The loan bursary fund for students at tertiary institutions was established in 1978 to “provide a revolving fund from which assistance can be given to Basotho to further their education on a partial repayment basis”.

The NUL students’ representative council (SRC) said in its letter to Mr Mochoboroane that the extension of the allowances would help them pay rentals and buy food in June 2020. Under normal circumstances, NUL would have closed at the end of May after the second semester examinations. However, the school activities have been disrupted by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown which started in March 2020.

NUL’s SRC president, Reatlehile Makateng, said that since their contracted allowances were for the month ending May, they needed additional funds since the academic year has also been extended.

“The reason for this request is that the academic year has been extended until June to cater for the time lost during the lockdown,” Mr Makateng said.

“This implies that students will still be at the university in June to carry on with their academic work and thus they would need rent and food allowances.”

Mr Makateng pleaded with the minister to speedily address the matter to ensure that their studies are not disrupted.

He said they had earlier engaged the former Minister of Development Planning, Tlohelang Aumane, on the matter and he assured them that his office would assist them if the need arose.

“On seeing that the Covid-19 pandemic would affect us for long, we engaged the former Minister of Planning over the issue and he said he would help us.”

The NUL Senate last week resolved to extend the institution’s academic year by one month until the end of June 2020.

Mr Mochoboroane confirmed receiving the letter adding that his ministry was already deliberating on the issue.

He said the issue would be finalised once the 2020/21 financial budget is finalised.

“There may be a delay but the intention is for the money to serve its purpose of assisting students with rent and food in June and we will do all we can for that to happen,” Mr Mochoboroane.

He also noted that the stipend extension would be uniform for all students who are sponsored by NMDS.

“We also have students in Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, United States (US) and China who will be getting this extension,” Mr Mochoboroane said adding that there would also be a top up on the allowances for students in China and US.

“There are some students who are in China and Canada who require further top ups because of the sharp increase in the cost of living.”

While some students have already received their allowances, others will receive theirs once the budget has been approved, he said.

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