Much as the Higher Education Students’ Loans and Grants Board requires an upward adjustment of allocation to reach out to more students across the country, over K16 billion which was loaned out to students from 1989 to date is yet to be recovered.
This is according to an impeccable source from the board who said the money could even go beyond K16 billion as they were still consolidating names of people who studied in public universities, got loans but were yet pay back.
This has seen needy students in public and private universities failing to raise enough money for fees, which is regarded as a fundamental right in the country’s statutes.
According to the source, they received about 22,000 applications last year, out of which 20,786 students got loans and grants.
Students’ representatives in public universities have disclosed that there are over 2,000 students who risk withdrawing from university due to financial constraints.
The students’ representatives, who briefed journalists in Mzuzu on Wednesday, argued that the Loans and Grants Board is given little by the government to cater for all needy students in the country.
These were students from all public universities of University of Malawi (Unima), the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (Mubas), Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must), Mzuzu University (Mzuni), Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar), Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (Kuhes) and Bunda, who held the briefing alongside Youth and Society (Yas).
One of the representatives, Unima students Union President Charles Dokera, said most students from poverty-stricken backgrounds were struggling to find support in universities.
For instance, at Unima, 134 students have reserved places while 31 have already been withdrawn from the institution.
At Bunda, 10 have reserved places while 316 are on the verge of losing places.
At Kuhes, 91 students have had their places reserved due to lack of fees and will return to school next year.
At least 26 students may also lose places at Mubas while 560 students require urgent help at Mzuni.
At Must, about 1,500 students may not return to school when they re-open on March 29 2022 due to lack of fees.
“We have a serious issue at hand. We recognise the presence of the Loans Board, which is not doing enough because of financial constraints. We have hard scenarios where a student would be given a tuition loan but would still withdraw because of lack of upkeep loans,” he said.
Students are given a maximum of K200,000 per year.
Yas Executive Director Charles Kajoloweka suggested that the government should consider increasing the allocation to Loans Board from the current K12 billion to around K17 billion to meet growing demand amidst the rising cost of living.
“The upkeep allowance should be raised from the current K200,000 to around K480,000. We also think that the corporate world can invest in education by assisting some of these needy students,” he said.
However, Loans Board acting Chief Executive Officer Prince Pwetekere declined to comment on the need for an upward adjustment of financial resources channelled to the institution.
He, however, said they were contemplating naming and shaming defaulters and prosecuting them as one way of recovering the money.
“We are submitting names of defaulters to credit reference bureaus such that when these people want to get loans or services from banks they will be referred to our institution to square the bills they left first,” he said.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Labour has written all heads of departments to provide a list of all graduate employees who benefitted from the student loan scheme in a bid to recover the K16 billion.
The letter, dated March 14 2022, indicates that the names should be submitted to the office of Human Resource by March 25 2022.