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Ex-students owe government K2bn

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The Higher Education Students’ Loans and Grants Board has disclosed that ex-students owe government about K2 billion and has since taken strong measures to recover the loans.

Geoffrey Chipungu, chairperson of the board, whose main purpose is to manage and administer students’ loans and grants fund, disclosed this during a press briefing held yesterday at the Central Office of Information (COI) in Lilongwe.

Chipungu said the board, which started its functions on Wednesday this week has set up a committee to recover loans which former students of public institutions obtained dating back to 1999.

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“I don’t want to pre-empt what we intend to do, but we have set up a committee. We will do everything that might even include publishing the names in the newspapers,” Chipungu said.

“We hope we will not go that far and expect that people are going to start repaying the loans. We are convinced that people (former students) did not pay because they didn’t know where to pay. We think that when we start asking people to pay they will respond accordingly.”

He also announced that following the operation of the board, all students will have to make fresh applications. The applications will be assessed using criteria outlined in the applications forms.

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He also said there will be no payment of arrears to students.

According to section 24(a) (b) of the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Act, students that shall be eligible for the loan or grant are those that are Malawians and have been admitted to pursue, or are pursuing an accredited higher education programme at an accredited education institution.

Chipungu added that all needy students studying at an accredited institution would have a chance to access the loans. Selection of the beneficiaries, he said, would be done professionally.

The selection process of the loans beneficiaries will be done from September 18 to 30 this year.

A World Bank working paper of 2010 on the Education System in Malawi revealed that majority of the students who find themselves in public institutions of higher learning come from socio-economically stable backgrounds and would, therefore, not fail to fund their tertiary education.

Earlier this year, education commentators, said government’s failure to recover the loans is burdening tax-payers, who continue coughing up money to fund the system, which was supposed to be revolving in nature.

In 2010, government decided to start channelling funds for the students’ loans through the Malawi Savings Bank (MSB) with the aim of strengthening the recovery process but the system failed and the bank stopped processing the loans.

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