By Amayo Melbourne.
It is undeniable that the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) has done a good job over the years. However, something must be amiss. It appears the higher education financier is overwhelmed. The number of beneficiaries has steadily arisen over time and the board must really be straining to cater for every applicant. Cases of ineligibility are on the rise and the reasons given by the money lender are flimsy and unsatisfactory.
The board has also indicated that it only recognizes the 8-4-4 system and students whose programs go beyond four years such as those in the schools of engineering and medicine should begin racking their brains how they will pay fee in their final years. This must be very unfortunate for college going students especially those who entirely depend on the loan both for fee and upkeep.
I want to challenge HELB to be bold enough and tell the students what the situation is instead of keeping quiet and let students hope against hope. Orphans and students from extremely poor families got maximum loan of Kshs.60,000 before but the situation has now changed with almost all applicants getting a paltry Kshs.35,000 every academic year. Inconsistencies have also been witnessed where students, who are beneficiaries already, have to travel all the way to Nairobi every academic year or even every semester to cause their loans to be released because they are not disbursed together with others for reasons Iâ€™m yet to understand.
I wonder if somebody is able to see how the situation is ugly for students dependent on the loan. Besides, it is very ridiculous that the loan has stagnated at the amounts set several years ago yet economic situations are even worse for the students. The government hinted to increase the loan but this was just but a passing cloud. This is a promise the government must make good to make learning bearable in our universities and colleges. HELB must also whisper in the ears of the government how serious the situation is so that it doesnâ€™t continue sleeping thinking that the students are enjoying it. We also want to see HELB fully exercising its mandate and collecting more funds so that students can concentrate on their studies but not where fee will come from.
While every learner is entitled to these loans, priority must be set right. It beats logic and reason to award post-graduate students loans when a good number of undergraduates miss. Letâ€™s first of all focus on the basics and ensure that all undergraduates are settled before we direct anything into post-graduate loaning. Students who can pay their fee should also be kind enough to consider their brothers and sisters who cannot make it.
Before my pen inks out, I want to categorically make it clear that Iâ€™m not condemning HELB but I am asking it to better the services and raise an alarm whenever necessary so that other stakeholders such as the relevant ministries can come in instead of keeping quiet and giving us the false impression that things are alright. In so doing, it is the voiceless students who suffer.
The writer is a telecommunications engineering student at Moi University