Government is to enact an enabling law for the implementation of the university students’ loan scheme which had been hindered by the lack of a legal framework. According to Mr Michael Wanyama, the coordinator of the students’ loan scheme secretariat, the Students’ Loan Scheme Bill is expected to be ready by October, meaning that the scheme will not take off this academic year as earlier expected.
“We are done with the principles of the law which are yet to be submitted to Cabinet and we hope to have the actual Bill ready by October,” Mr Wanyama said at a press conference in Kampala yesterday.
He said the draft Students Loan Scheme Bill is developed drawing lessons from Ghana, US and UK, where the scheme is already operational. “The proposed legal frame work is aimed at establishing a well-developed and elaborate mechanism for the students’ financing scheme,” he said.
The legal framework, according to Mr Wanyama would spell out the laws that will govern the operationalisation of the scheme while the financial framework would stipulate the sources of the initial scheme, repayment and recovery mechanisms.
Recently, government instituted a four-member team of experts to ensure that all the necessary legal, financial and institutional frameworks are put in place. On Monday, the team met stakeholders from the legal fraternity, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Uganda Revenue Authority, National Social Security Fund and representatives of various universities to get their input.
Mr Wanyama said poor but bright students will benefit from the scheme which has been in the pipeline for about a decade. “Many students cannot afford tuition fees and research shows that 20 per cent of those admitted to universities like Makerere fail to do their first semester exams due to lack of fees,” Mr Wanyama added.
Every year, government sponsors 4,000 students at the five public universities. According to a 2005 government policy, 40 out of the 4,000 slots are reserved for top sportsmen while 64 are filled by persons with disabilities.
Meanwhile 896 of the slots are competed for through the district quota system with preference given to students who sat for exams at schools located in their home districts. Statistics from the Ministry of Education indicate that about 60,000 Senior Six leavers qualify to join tertiary institutions every year but less than 40,000 are admitted in both public and private universities-indicating that 20,000 miss admission.
For instance, of the 65,417 students who passed last year’s UACE exams, only 25,000 have gained admission to public universities on private scholarship in addition to the 4,000 students who will be admitted on government scholarship, making a total of 29,000.
This means that when those find space in public universities, the remaining 36,417 otherwise eligible students will have to contend with finding a place in the 24 private universities.