By Alick Ponje
Some public universities in the country have resorted to organising fundraising events in a bid to assist needy students on the verge of withdrawing on financial grounds.
Our assessments show that hundreds of students in the country’s six public institutions of higher learning namely University of Malawi, Mzuzu University (Mzuni), Kamuzu University of Health Sciences, Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must), Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) are failing to pay their tuition fees.
While these universities dominate the list of beneficiaries of support provided by the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board (HESLGB)— where private institutions also feature—reports indicate the universities still have substantial numbers of students failing to pay the fees.
In the 2020-21 academic year, HESLGB disbursed loans to a total of 18,424 needy students out of which 17,140 are from public institutions while 1,284 are from private institutions.
Mzuni Vice-Chancellor Professor John Saka recently led a big walk aimed at raising K50 million with which to assist 125 students to remain at the institution.
Students unions in the public universities have also been organising fundraising events to save those at risk of withdrawing after failing to pay tuition fees.
Asked what modalities the university has put in place to ensure needy students do not drop out of school, Must Communications Manager James Mphande said the institution has approached corporate partners and individuals who are able to offer some students scholarships.
“There are several students benefiting from this arrangement. Secondly, we advise them to apply for loans from the Loans Board and fortunately these days, the board verifies with us on the status of the applicants, so we recommend them and the majority get help.
“The only challenge with the Loans Board is that mostly it does not cover everything and in some cases only partially covers some aspects, that is they may only help the student with tuition and upkeep fees or part tuition with accommodation and upkeep,” Mphande said.
He added that some students are completely left out due to budgetary constraints at HESLGB as there are “too many applicants across the country”.
“The university itself raises funds and supports needy students. Recently, we decided to make this fundraising more sustainable, so we established an endowment fund where donors give us money which we invest and only use the interest to support needy students.
“This means the capital will always be there while the interest will be grown over the years to support more students,” Mphande said, adding that despite all these measures, many more students are not reached and remain in need of support.
Luanar Registrar Phillip Kaonda also indicated that the university is establishing an endowment fund through which it seeks to help needy students who fail to get support from the loans board.