Mzimba North Constituency legislator Agnes Nyalonje has said the the university loan scheme needs to be reformed, saying giving partial loans to needy students represents “the worst case of a lose-lose scenario.”
Nyalonje made the remarks when she seconded a motion moved by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) legislator Juliana Lunguzi moved calling for a reveiew of the Higher Education Students Loands and Grants Boards. The motion was approved.
The MP said the students lose because “they fail to get quality education that they seek as they spend half of their time looking for money.”
“Last year, as we sat here as Members of Parliament deliberating over the annual budget, there were hundreds of LUANAR (Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources) students in our car park seeking to wash Members’ cars in order to get money to pay fees. How much money can one get from a car wash?
“The second loss is for the country and the tax payers. By partially financing students, what we allow is a partial investment that does not buy us qualified students. So as tax payers, we lose out. The parents and guardians also lose out because their charges take longer to finish their education,” Nyalonje said.
Nyalonje who is also the vice-chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, said the pressure to improve access to loans has forced the Loans board to spread themselves thinly and opt for quantity instead of quality because for every student who is partially financed it means that there is less focus on studying.
The Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board has come under fire on the identification of students loans beneficiaries.
Nyalonje said legislators passed a “very progressive” piece of legislation, the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Act, 2015, which supports the expansion of access to higher education.
“That is an important piece of legislation. However, as we pat ourselves on the back, I plead with my Honourable colleagues in this House that we now must look at the lessons that we have learnt since 2015 when this Act was put into implementation,” she said.
Nyalonje said they have learnt a number of things , among them that “quality education does not come cheap, especially quality higher education is not cheap.”
She said: “We have learnt that as a people, we need to change our values. We cannot sit here and sanction bailouts of parastatals that are mismanaged and not finance our students’ education. That is not right.
“If we fail to find K10 billion a year for the loans and we are able to find K45 billion to finance a bail out which has resulted from mismanagement, then I say we need to ask ourselves how much we value the education of our youth in this country.”
Nyalonje also said there is need to “tighten up” the enforcement of all the Acts that govern the management of public resources.
“We have the Public Finance Management Act, the Public Procurement Act and the Public Audit Act. We need to strengthen and enforce these and the measures in there. What we should not do as a people is to use the excuse that monies are being misappropriated or being abused as an excuse not to finance higher education in this country. If that was a legitimate excuse, we would have stopped financing government ministries, department and agencies because they waste a lot of resources and we have never said let us not fund them,” Nyalonje said.
Nyalonje persuaded the MPs to recommend the review of the Act so that they can move step by step with the youth and make sure that Parliament finance the education that will give the nation the human resources to power the economy of the country.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :