Members of the National Assembly last week proposed major changes to Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) in order to avoid students getting double loans.
The MPs also recommended that Helb publish a list of all the beneficiaries in national newspapers to give a chance to those who have not benefited to access other loans.
While debating the Higher Education Loans Board (Amendment) Bill 2014 prepared by Kiharu MP Irungu Kang’ata, the legislators expressed concern that some students, despite getting Helb loans, also benefit from other loans such as bursaries from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), locking out other students who have not benefited from Helb funding. The legislators also recommended that Helb extend loans to polytechnics and tertiary institutions in order to give a chance to all students to benefit.
MPs Robert Puskose (Endebess), Keneth Okoth (Kibra), Ferdinand Wanyonyi (Kwanza) and Malulu Injendi (Malava) said there is need for all students to be given equal opportunities to benefit. “Helb should be empowered to monitor beneficiaries of other categories of loans to avoid duplication,” said Pukose.
Okoth said the fund should be expanded to include other students in colleges and polytechnics, to ensure tertiary colleges are treated fairly.
The Bill will now be tabled for the Third Reading after MPs concluded debating on the proposals, including a suggestion that university students be represented on the Helb board to ensure transparency in disbursements.
According to the Bill, three students, two of whom shall be government sponsored students and elected as chairpersons of their respective associations should sit on the Helb board while the third shall be a chairperson from a private university association.
Consequently, the Bill proposes that a student who is under 18 years of age and therefore has no identity card be in a position to apply for grants from Helb through a parent or guardian. Currently, students who are under 18 years of age and therefore do not possess identity cards are not eligible for loans.
The Bill will also make it compulsory for children who are orphans and poor to get the Helb loan. But applicants will be vetted for academic performance.
Meanwhile, various universities led by their student leaders across the country have threatened to demonstrate this week in protest against Education Cabinet Secretary Prof Jacob Kaimenyi snubbing them. Among the issues they need addressed are funding of the institutions, student attachment and internship positions and accreditation.