New loan scheme to benefit girls, special needs students

Thursday June 25 2020

A female graduate jubilitates during the 70th

A female graduate jubilitates during the 70th graduation ceremony of Makerere University in January 15, 2020. PHOTO/ DAVID LUBOWA. 

By Patience Ahimbisibwe

The Higher Education Students Financing Board (HESFB) has introduced affirmative action to benefit more girls and special needs students with government loans to pursue higher education.
Mr Michael Wanyama, the HESFB executive director, yesterday said because fewer girls offer science subjects and later pass them, the board introduced an additional five points to the female students to enable them qualify for the loans.

In addition, students with special needs admitted to any course of study will be able to access the government loans unlike in the past when the scheme was started only supporting science based disciplines.
Other humanity courses that have been taken on for support are Bachelor of Speech and Language Therapy, Bachelor of Special Needs Education and Bachelor of Education with Special Needs.

“There is also affirmative action for other programmes targeting people with special needs where we take people who have done humanities. We are trying to broaden our scope. When funds allow in future, we are gradually opening up space to take on more humanities. A person with special disabilities is eligible to do any course he has been admitted for. The board approved this,” Mr Wanyama said in an interview yesterday.
However, the number of students the board will be sponsoring in the 2020/21 academic year had dropped from 1, 841 to the planned 1, 200 students.
Mr Wanyama explained that they had asked for an additional Shs10 billion to enable them recruit about 3,000 students which money was not available.

“We did not get additional money to increase on the number of successful loan applicants. But within the budget that we have, we are able to bring on board first year students. In case we get more money, we shall adjust. But because the number of applicants is increasing every year, we intended to increase beneficiaries. That is why we had asked for additional resource so that we can increase on the number of applicants we are taking on. But our budget wasn’t increased. Should we get more resources, we shall be able to increase on the number. If we do not get a new addition, the number will drop to about 1, 200,” Mr Wanyama added.
He added: “We give girls an extra five points. We do not publish our score card in the media. People can manipulate it. Naturally, girls are not many doing sciences. Boys double girls who do sciences.”
The board is also considering adding 100 slots to students coming from the northern region.

He said data has indicated that fewer students from the north have been accessing government facilities be it at admissions to public universities on government scholarships on merit.
According to Mr Wanyama, the problem originates from the students results at Uganda National Examinations Board level where few score the minimum entry requirements to institutions of higher learning.