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Goodall hits at loans board for injustice

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MINISTER of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Goodall Gondwe, has accused the Higher Education Students’ and Loans Board of giving loans to students from rich families.

Gondwe was reacting to pleas for funding from some Members of Parliament who were pushing for more resources to the board. Mzimba North Member of Parliament Agness Nyalonje and her Dedza East  counterpart Juliana Lunguzi said the allocation of about K4 billion to the board does not tally with demand.

Nyalonje said resource-poor students are struggling to access the loans due to inadequate funds that the board gets from the national budget.

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“We have to do something to help students from poor families have access to higher education [services]. Otherwise, the situation we are in means that the rich will remain rich and the poor will remain poor,” Nyalonje said.

But Gondwe said the problem with the loans board is that it selects beneficiaries indiscriminately. “The money we give them is meant for students from poor families; those who cannot afford to pay university fees. But those people [at the board] are supporting students from rich families,” Gondwe said.

He, however, said, resources permitting, the government would be willing to increase the allocation to the board.

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When Lunguzi said it is no longer rosy to be a university student in  Malawi, Gondwe told her to advise the board. “If you chat with him [board executive director Chris Chisoni], tell him to stop offering loans to rich people,” Gondwe said.

In an interview, Chisoni said he was not in a position to respond to ministerial statements but could clarify on the board’s selection  criteria. He said since the board came into being, several mechanisms have been  put in place to ensure proper screening of beneficiaries.

Chisoni said, like other organisations, it was likely that the board had some weaknesses, but was quick to add that such weaknesses were not as bad as some people may think.

“We are doing our best to ensure that deserving students access the loans. To us, if we are achieving more than 95 percent [of our targets] with some human mistake of about five percent, we still think we are good and we can further improve,” Chisoni said.

Parliament approved the establishment of the loans board to be responsible for the provision of loans and grants to needy students in both public and private higher education institutions.

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