JPM: No student will miss out in loans

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The Head of State made the remarks following fears that thousands of students would miss out in the higher learning loans arrangement

Dar es Salaam. President John Magufuli yesterday assured the nation that all deserving students admitted to higher learning institutions in the country would be issued with loans.

Speaking after laying a foundation stone for the construction of hostels at the University of Dar es Salaam, Dr Magufuli noted that in addition to continuing students, 25,717 new students who have secured admission to higher learning institutions in this academic year, will also get the loans.

His statement comes amid a public outcry over what has been construed by many as a decision to slash money set aside for students’ loans translating into reduction of the number of beneficiaries.

Reports had it that thousands of students were at risk of missing loans from the Higher Education Students’ Loans Board (HESLB) following the government decision.

But, the Head of State allayed the fears yesterday noting that his government would not backtrack on its promise to ensure that students in higher learning institutions do not only get loans, but get it in time.

Dr Magufuli noted that the government has set aside in its 2016/17 budget enough money to provide loans to a total of 124,358 students in this financial year. He asked students and other people to ignore information that the government has no capacity to serve them. He said in this fiscal year, the government had allocated a total of Sh483 billion as loans to students who come from poor families and from the amount, Sh120 billion has already been spent. “My government is determined to ensure all qualifying students get loans as they are entitled to the right to education. There is no need to worry on that because we have enough balance,” he said.

The President went on to say that in the first quarter of this academic year, the government was supposed to issue Sh157 billion and so far it had processed and disbursed Sh80 billion. The remaining would be released soon, he said.

On the other hand, President Magufuli called on all graduates who have benefitted from the loans arrangement and have secured employment to start repaying the money so as to boost the government’s capacity to service more students.

According to him, had the estimated outstanding balance of Sh2.6 trillion been recovered, there would have been more than enough money from which to provide loans to all university students. He also ordered the ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training to take legal measures against ex-beneficiaries who have defaulted.

For her part, the minister for Education, Prof Joyce Ndalichako, said the government was keen to address all challenges facing the education sector, saying her ministry would ensure students’ loans were disbursed on time insisting that students must meet set criteria.

“People should not be confused by circulating rumours that many students will miss loans,” said the minister. Last week reports had it that HESLB had received Sh80.9 billion instead of Sh121 billion in the first quarter for students loans.

Because the amount was not enough to meet the demand of about 54,000 students so far admitted through the Tanzania Commission of Universities (TCU), the announcement was construed by some quarters as meaning that thousands could miss out in accessing the money.

At the same time, reports had it that the Board’s loans capacity as per the allocated budget was to meet loans of 21,500 students, thus raising concerns among stakeholders.

In June, Parliament passed Sh484 billion for HESLB to be disbursed on a quarterly basis. The government has said that priority would be given to courses that are needed urgently in pushing the industrialisation drive.

“Only students meeting the set criteria will be provided with loans. Priority will be for those taking courses that the government needs in achieving its goals,” Education deputy minister Stella Manyanya said recently.