The University of Malawi Students Union (Umsu) has demanded that the Higher Education Loans and Grants Board release the list of the loan beneficiaries by Thursday this week failing which they will take unspecified action against the board.
Public Relations Officer for the Board, Faith Mnthunzi, has, however, said the board has not finished screening the applicants to determine the student beneficiaries.
In a letter sent to the boards Executive Director on Monday, Umsu said it is puzzling that over two months after the College of Medicine (Com) opened and about a month after the Polytechnic re-opened, the beneficiary list is nowhere to be seen.
While stating that landlords have evicted many students from their private hostels due to non-payment of rentals, Umsu said a lot of students have also not registered yet as they do not have money to pay for their tuition.
According to the figures in the letter, out of 1331 first year students at the Polytechnic, only about 400 students have managed to pay K 68,750, which is a minimum amount required for registration, whereas at the College of Medicine, out of 236 admitted students, around 66% are said to have registered.
2015 first year students are required to pay K275, 000 in an academic year while continuing students are expected to pay K55, 000.
“Students are starving … they have acclimatized themselves to a system of eating once a day. Nevertheless, their respective institutions require the students to perform according to the standards of a particular institution,” the letter reads in part.
The students unions’ mother body said it is unreasonable to hear that the board does not go by academic calendar of any institution.
“Why does the board tend to forget that all higher learning institutions have disparities in as far as academic calendars are concerned? Students will end up withdrawing on financial grounds if the board would like to adopt uniformity of time in disbursement of the loans because they do not have money to pay for their tuition, food and lodging.
“Umsu Council which was established to provide students with a voice, useful services, and the representation they deserve believes that it is a lot wiser that the board brings to the knowledge of unions about the exact date the names will be released,” the letter says.
Umsu then said it is unfortunate to learn that whenever the board is approached on the issue, the response has been that the students should be asking the board individually as if the students have no representation in their respective colleges.
“Umsu Council does not understand why the board keeps distancing itself from students unions, arguing that the matter does not concern students unions.
“The union finds such a response unfair and undoubtedly impractical, since it is Umsu through College Unions that directly deals with students’ concerns and offers alternative solutions; one of which is acting as a gap between students and a particular responsible body, in this case Malawi Universities Development Programme (Mudep), an interim secretariat of the board,” the other part of the letter reads.
During the 2015/16 budget presentation, the Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe mentioned the net lending figure of K3 billion for the loan scheme but some sources privy to the proceedings at the board said the Treasury has only disbursed K1.5 billion .
All needy students in all public universities, colleges plus all accredited private universities, colleges are qualified to apply for the loans from the board.
But Mnthunzi only described the K1.5 billion amount as “just a rumour” which has not been officially communicated to the board.
“We don’t know if the K1.5 billion is for the loans and operation costs or it’s for the loans only. We will tell the nation once the money comes into our hands,” she said.
A vibrant writer who gives a great insight on hot topics and issues