Tuesday March 11 2014

Review students loan scheme

Parliament passed the Higher Education Students Financing Bill, 2013 which is yet to be assented to by the President .The loan scheme is intended to provide financing to students who have qualified for higher education in recognised institutions of higher learning but are unable to support themselves .

This is a commendable job by the stakeholders but it is also important to put into consideration the effectiveness and implementation of the scheme.

It has been proposed that priority be given to students who undertake science-based courses which to me is very unfair .There are students who never had the opportunity of undertaking such courses not because they did not have the potential to but because the schools in which they were did not have facilities to cater for the science courses.

Considering science-based courses means that students who are studying arts courses will not benefit from the scheme yet they too might not have the financial muscle to pursue their education .
The levels of unemployment are very high yet the student who would have taken the loan under the scheme will be required to pay back the same within a period of one year after completion of the course irrespective of whether the person has a job or not.

This Bill if assented to is likely to conflict with various constitutional provisions and various legal principles i.e. equality of all persons before the law, non-discrimination and the principle of double jeopardy because if one serves six months in prison for failure to pay the money then there is no way such a person is going to be compelled to pay yet he or she has already served the sentence as a civil debtor.

Compulsion to pay back the loan with or without a job should be qualified to the extent that one should be employed. This will also force the government to ensure that such people have jobs.

Brian Kisomose,
Makerere University School of Law