By Eliud Owalo
While the current HELB Bill has certain laudable inputs, it fails to address the critical issue of decentralization of HELB to the County level. At the moment, all University students from all over the Country troop to Anniversary Towers in Nairobi, where HELB is located to seek information about loans and present applications for the same.
This is not only unfair, cumbersome and time wasting but is also an unjust way of determining who amongst the applicants truly deserves education loan from HELB.
In the fourth schedule of the Constitution, the duty and obligation of the National Government in the education sector include, inter alia, setting education policy, standards, curricula, examinations, granting of University charters and provision of Public University Education.
Expectedly, this has to be realized in conformity with Article 21 (Implementation of Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) and Article 46 (Consumer Rights) of the Constitution. In other words, the National Government is obligated to ensure the provision of education services of reasonable quality as well as the necessary information related to such services.
As currently structured and constituted, HELB cannot be able to fairly determine the very needy and bright students who deserve education loan from the body. Thus, for effective service delivery to the students by HELB, there is need to decentralize the body to the Counties, where verification, determination and scrutiny of loan applications will be carried out impartially.
This is so because it will bring service providers closer to the students at the grassroots, where the financial status of loan applicants is better known. This might bring the lacking fairness which is usually noticed when HELB loan is awarded to relatives of senior Government officials and non-deserving applicants.
In order for HELB to be more effective in service delivery to the students, it will need to work closely with the Local Education Authorities (LEA) offices in the Counties. This will help in the fair identification, verification and scrutiny of HELB loan applications and issuance of loans to deserving students.
Expectedly, this will enhance transparency, fairness and good governance in the working of HELB. It will also save thousands of University and College students from the burden of trooping to Nairobi from far flung parts of the Country, just to make enquiries on their loan applications to HELB. It will also be in sync with the Government effort to initiate the Huduma Program.
Eliud Owalo is a management consultant based in Nairobi.