Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Higher Education Students Financing Board (HESFB) has said that they will not give out loans to continuing students this year.
Since 2014, eligibility for the Student Loan Scheme was only open to students joining in their first year of study at eligible universities, who are funded until they complete their studies. But in 2021, the board launched the Student Loan opportunity for continuing students.
The Executive Director of the HESFB, Michael Wanyama, said that hundreds of anxious students asked for this loan to help them continue their studies in the face of COVID-19 effects, which have now made it difficult for some of them to pay their tuition.
“I am so sad. To prevent struggling students from quitting school, we introduced Loans for Continuing Students. And we all know that many parents and benefactors were affected by Covid19, meaning more students are in need of this service than before,” Wanyama said, moments before the board announced the names of this year’s loan recipients.
According to the 2016 Africa Higher Education Student Survey Project, at least 30 percent of all students in Uganda who enroll in various degree programs at different universities either never complete their courses on time or drop out because they are unable to pay the necessary tuition fees.
In face of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s income, this figure could have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on people’s income although no research has been done on this effect.
According to statistics, the board received 3,089 loan requests from students between July 15 and October 15. Nevertheless, 672 of them were deemed ineligible—the majority of them being continuing students.
Wanyama said that when the continuing students program was introduced, they were given 500 Million Shillings with the expectation that this sum would rise; double, or even triple this year, but they received nothing in the end.
The State Minister for Higher Education, John Chrysostom Muyingo, also noted that while he sympathizes with the hundreds of students who are on the verge of completely dropping out of school due to lack of tuition, the government is broke, leaving a lot of unfunded priority, like funding these students, on their waiting list.
The absence of funds has not affected continuing students alone given the fact that the board will finance only 25 percent of the total applicants that had been classified as eligible this year. This is just 625 first-year students out of 2,417.
Wanyama added that this year they were allocated 29.2 Billion Shillings and when they deducted funds to support learners who had already been enrolled in the scheme in the previous years, they were left with only 2.6 Billion Shillings.
He however added that the board has projected that in order to cater for all applicants they project to receive next year, they might require at least 13.5 billion shillings.
Meanwhile, students who received loans from the board since it was established in 2014 are now required to repay them. Records, however, reveal that only approximately 1,000 of the 4,680 people who received benefits and have finished school and hence are required to repay have really begun to do so.
Despite encouraging students to continue or start repaying, Wanyama said that no one has gone over the seven-year repayment period allotted to them. But he also noted that precautions have already been taken to make sure that students don’t default on their loans.
One such precaution is having all of their students register with the credit reporting agency.