Political Leaders and Educationists in the West Nile are calling for deliberate efforts by the government to ensure regional equity in the enrollment of students to the higher education loan scheme.
The scheme is managed by the Higher Education Students Financing Board-HESFB, a government agency mandated to roll out loans to students who are unable to finance their studies at university and other tertiary institutions. The beneficiaries pay back with an interest of 7 per cent per year after securing employment.
To date, the Board has awarded loans to 10,041 students, majority of them pursuing undergraduate degree programmes in public and private universities as well as other tertiary institutions, across the country. However, leaders from West Nile, say that the number of beneficiaries from there is worrying.
In a report to the management of the Higher Education Students Financing Board, the leaders observed that only very few students who study in the central region have been able to secure loans leaving the neediest students languishing in rural areas. They estimate that recipients from the region stand at 0.05 per cent of the total number of beneficiaries.
Professor Christine Dranjoa, the Vice-Chancellor of Muni University questions why the region has continuously recorded low numbers in the scheme over the years even in various institutions within West Nile.
Arua Resident District Commissioner Nahori Oya has called on the management of the scheme to probe the low number of beneficiaries from the region, warning that this could portray the region as a marginalized group in the loan scheme. He also wonders whether there has not been any deliberate effort not to disseminate information to the people regarding the availability of the students’ loan scheme.
Meanwhile some of the leaders in the region have expressed a lack of knowledge on the existence of the students’ loan scheme, suggesting that there could have been a deliberate move to keep the region uniformed.
However, Michael Wanyama Executive Director of Higher Education Students Financing Board says that the low enrollment of students from West Nile is attributed to lack of information or misinformation about the scheme. He encourages them to look out for the next round of applications and ensure that they equally apply for the loans.
Under the student’s loan scheme, the government has put emphasis on sponsoring Science and Technology disciplines but has also opened up room for Persons with Disabilities in humanities.