Helb in Crisis as Students Miss out on Cash Disbursements

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Government, HELB Loan, Higher Education Loans Board

A cash crisis at the Higher Education Loans Board has hit hard on technical college students resulting in the learners missing out on loans meant to support their education.

The Star can now reveal that all government-sponsored students in the colleges will not get their loans—overdue since March— despite an earlier confirmation that they had been awarded.

Helb chief executive Charles Ringera on Wednesday said a Sh2.2 billion budget cut in March crippled its ability to provide the money.

Ringera said that during the period, Helb had awarded the loans to some 65,000 students in technical colleges and was working with a budget of Sh2.6 billion.

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This means each student was set to receive an average of Sh40,000. However, upon the budget cut, Helb reverted the allocation to the students to nil, putting in jeopardy their ability to clear fee arrears.

A message sent to one of the students in March and seen by the Star reads: “You were awarded a loan of Sh35,000, but disbursement may not be done due to limited budget. Ensure you apply for 2021-22 subsequent loan once reopened.”

Ringera said earlier projections sought to award up to 105,930 students with about Sh4 billion budget.

On whether the students would receive the funds once the exchequer releases this year’s funding, Ringera said, “No, 2020-21 is now lost since we never got any money from the Treasury. That is why we awarded them zero so that they apply this year as continuing/subsequent [applicants].”

This means the students will have to wait for the new application to receive their loan.

In 2019, the government moved to sponsor learners in technical institutions and was to partly pay their fees, and just like their university counterparts, they would access loans to cater for the remaining fees and upkeep.

The fee charged in TVET institutions currently stands at Sh56,420.

The government would provide Sh30,000 capitation for each TVET trainee. They would also receive as much as Sh40,000 loans annually from Helb, enough to clear fees and cater for their upkeep.

The crisis comes at a time when the majority of households are struggling in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic that struck in mid-march 2020.

Wafula Wafukho, a student at the Kabete Technical Institute, says they have had to turn to their parents to top up their fees.

Wafula, a second-year student, said they have been relying on the loans to clear their fee arrears.

“One of my classmates was not able to do his exams because the parents could not raise the remaining amount after the government capitation,” he said.

He noted that he was lucky because his parents stepped up and cleared his arrears.

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