Previously, the government of Malawi, through the Higher Education Students Loans Board (HESLB) increased funding to needy students in public and private colleges through student loans. Funding rose by an approximately 60% as compared to last year.
This was largely due to numerous calls throughout the country, which were championed by parliamentarians, on the need to consider the growing rate at which needy students are dropping out of colleges due to high tuition fees.
The Higher Education Students Loans Board, through its assessment, categorized needy students into degrees of neediness. This led to some students getting only part of their tuition without upkeep. Others were loaned full tuition without upkeep and some got full tuition with upkeep.
Though the question of availability of funds is obvious, since this increase was reflected in the national budget that was prepared by the Ministry of Finance. Needy students are still subjected to delays in having their loans in time to register for their semesters and; of course, to have their upkeep used to rent places and eat on a daily basis.
For over 1500 students who were offered student loans at Chancellor College, HESLB only sent two of its staff to process the loan bonding so that funds would be available ‘on time.’
Chancellor College administration invited all students, who were on government loan, to be available for the bonding process, two weeks before classes commenced.
These needy students were required to provide for their own accommodation and food. Some had to travel to Zomba from as far as Chitipa. They humbly bore the cost of the travel in the belief that they would have their funds before they were in dire need of them.
Two weeks after the commencement of classes, needy students still do not have their upkeep ready. Now one wonders, if these students were categorized as completely needy students, from where would they get funds to carter for their rent, food, stationary and other expenses?
Worse still, certain other students still do not have their tuition available, this means they cannot register for their semester.
Though the reason why they have not registered is legitimate. Fear still grips them. Since the process of registration means assessing various courses, choosing and submitting for registration and later following up the process.
In the process of registration, one might be required to make another choice of courses if the first is rejected. This would mean another need to assess courses. The whole process requires time and careful decision making. This, needy students are denied.
There have been cases in the past where student loans, especially upkeep, have been reported to be credited to students towards the end of the semester.
Though there are various reasons that have unofficially been given, for instance, that crediting students with upkeep, they only end up in misusing it. It is an overgeneralization that lets needy students suffer innocently.
Most definitely, the Higher Education Students Loans Board can do better, than delay loans which needy students are obliged to pay back. It is negligence, the Loans Board, must take care.
- Innocent Nyondo is a second year economics student at the University of Malawi, Chancellor College.