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Students ‘cheated’ on Peter Mutharika’s directive

Some University of Malawi (Unima) students have said they feel cheated that President Peter Mutharika’s directive that all students who had withdrawn or were about to withdraw on financial grounds should either return to their respective colleges or remain there has not been honoured.

In May this year, Chairperson of the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board (HESLGB), Geoffrey Chipungu, announced that government had committed additional resources to the board so that needy and deserving students should not withdraw because of lack of fees.

Chipungu then said it was realised that a total of 1,232 public undergraduate students had withdrawn or were about to withdraw because they could not afford to pay their tuition fees while 286 students did not even register at all and dropped out of school.

“The Loans Board is pleased that Government under the leadership of His Excellency Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika has come to the rescue of the situation which was dire…,” Chipungu had said at that time.

But Polytechnic Students Union (PSU) President Frank Msiska and his Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) Unima Students Union (Umsu) representative Dalitso Dulani confirmed in separate interviews that the students who were “saved” by Mutharika have not been given anything regarding the 2015/16 academic year, meaning they have fees balances.

“The Loans Board has released the list of the approved students, yet none of the above stated students has been given a loan in respect of the previous academic year where they failed to pay for their tuition,” he said.

According to the PSU president, all the 300 students who were affected have all been left out by the loans board while those that have been given the loans have just been given part of the total amount that they are supposed to pay for their tuitions.

He said in the wake of the development, PSU in conjunction with Polytechnic Alumni is asking all students who had withdrawn, were about to withdraw or had fees balances for the previous academic year to apply for the PSU loan.

He said the loans will come from the K89 million which was raised during a fundraising dinner but was kept in Polytechnic Students welfare fund for other purposes after the President had ‘come to the rescue’ of the needy students.

“This will be a revolving fund and students who shall be selected on this loan will be required to pay back so that others can also benefit from the same… On the same note, this serves as a reminder to the President that he has not honoured his promise,” said Msiska.

Dulani also confirmed that he was aware that some students who had been ‘saved’ by the President have been left out.

“And I was also told that the loans board has not yet paid the colleges… But for KCN, students were allowed to sit for their end of year examinations even though the board did not finish the balance,” Dulani said.

College of Medicine (CoM) Students Union president Francis Makiya and his Chancellor College (Chanco) counterpart, Sylvester James, said they did not immediately have the details of the students who have been left out.

In a separate interview yesterday, Umsu president, Tiwonge Sikwese, said he was aware that most needy deserving students have been left out of the loans beneficiaries group.

“We are going to meet the loans board so that every student gets the loan that they deserve and enough money should be given to each and every student. We will make sure that thing happens,” said Sikwese.

Asked why the loans board has ‘snubbed’ students who were saved by the president, its Executive Director Chris Chisoni said what he knew was that about 98 percent of the students whose names were sent to the board after the President’s intervention have been given the loans.

He said students who did not apply during the previous window still have a chance to do so as the board has extended the period for more applications.

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