Tuesday February 11 2014

Fix loan scheme loopholes first

By Editorial

President Museveni is reported to have okayed the student loan scheme that will be rolled out next semester, according to Education minister Jessica Alupo.

This paper reported yesterday that the minister said whereas the plan had been endorsed, the technical team is yet to be put in place to handle all loan-related issues. It is also not clear how the government will recover this money, especially when there is no job assurance after the students have completed studies.

Several stakeholders, including Makerere University Chancellor Mondo Kagonyere have already voiced their dissatisfaction with the project. For instance Prof Kagonyera warned that unless government put in place a mechanism to ensure the beneficiaries are employed after studies, it would be difficult to repay the money. “The whole thing is not thought out well,” the professor said.

His words can linked to the fact that only students offering science subjects will benefit from the loan scheme. This will be very unfair considering the fact Uganda also needs graduates in humanity studies.

The other big loophole in the project will be how to determine the beneficiaries. According to authorities, the beneficiaries should be poor. But the dilemma is most poor students go to humble secondary schools where it is hard to pass sciences. This sentiment was also shared by the director for higher education, Ms Elizabeth Gabona, who said “what is still tricky is on how to access the real poor people who have done science subjects using the means test”.

Just last year, the Kenya’s Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) said it had resorted to social media in a bid to try and recover KSh7.1 billion ($80.5 million) in loans made in the early 1970s to students who were untraceable.

The board hoped to identify the former students through social media data because the government had not established a National ID system by 1975.

Details of government-sponsored students before this period could not be traced by any other means apart from graduation records. The same problem could befall Uganda, especially now that we do not have National IDs.