Loans board should revise guidelines

Higher education students loan board (HESLB) was established under Act no 9 of 2004 and was in operation in July 2005.

The board is responsible to supervise the entire process of loan provision and its repayment.

Application for loans is underway for the 2017/18 academic year. The exercise will come to an end on September 4.

The board has come up with guidelines and criteria for issuance of loans and grants to students that have left students in shock. Conditions are no longer the same.

Meals and accommodation cost is hidden, unlike in the previous guidelines which stated clearly the amount. In the 2015/16 academic year, the amount stood at Sh8,500 per day for undergraduate, but it is not shown in the new guidelines.

It puts the board in the safe side for they would decide any amount to disburse to the students since there are no clauses that force them to pay a certain amount of allowance.

Surprisingly, the new guidelines states that post-graduate students would receive Sh10,000 for meals and accommodation per day, but it is silent for the undergraduates. This raises questions.

The post-graduate students (Masters and PhD) have also been allocated Sh500,000 per annum for books and stationery. Undergraduate students used to get Sh200,000 annually, but now the amount is not stated.

A maximum of Sh200,000 per annum for books may be granted to postgraduate students admitted at Law School of Tanzania.

Students whose parents are business owners known by the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) and Business Registration and Licensing Agency (Brela) have been disqualified.

The new guidelines state that those students “are not expected to apply’’, which means even when they attempt to apply for loans, they will not be considered.

Here the board is too general. There are big and small businessmen and these are different in many ways. The fact that one does business does not mean that he/she can pay for his/her children’s university fees.

The board wants no assistance to their applicants without considering that a lot of Tanzanians are poo. The needy students will be too many for it to cover up all students in all loan items.

Unfortunately, the guidelines states that the applicant should not be funded by other institutions with the exception of board.

After the allocation, the board may decide to two loan items out of six and there almost no room for the beneficiary to lodge his or her complaints.

Unlike in the past years when the applicants with loans issues were required to visit the loan board office directly and sort out issues.

Even so, this was not good enough because the victims used to travel a long distance to visit the board headquarters, which is located in Dar es Salaam.

It is unfortunate that, the applicants aspiring to study arts, business and languages courses will be less considered. The board says loans will issued according to the importance of the degree programmes.

The first and second cluster which comprised the programs like education in science and mathematics, health sciences, several engineering programmes, agriculture, forestry science, animal science and production will be highly considered for the loans.

The applicants, who are not in the first two clusters, will hardly secure the loans.

The question here is do we have already enough specialists of the programmes that are considered less important? Don’t we really need them anymore?

For Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology their case is even surprising. The loans board set a condition that the applicants must have been employees in public institutions and worked for a minimum of two years.

They are also required to be guaranteed by their employers over repayment of the loans.

Here the board leans towards the government employees, which negates its goal of serving the needy.

Is it true that the employed applicants need the loans more than those fresh from high schools? It is puzzling.

Applicants whose parents or guardians are public leaders listed in code of ethics Act 1995 are expected not to apply. It is obvious that even if they bother to apply for the loans, they will not be considered.

Those who are listed their include village chairmen whose do not even have big incomes. Truth be told, these people have no financial muscles of paying for their children’s university education.

The guidelines will only squeeze the majority. Hundreds will miss an opportunity to get university education.

It is imperative that the board revises the guidelines to allow more students access their right of getting education.

The author is a second year student pursuing B.A Kiswahili at the University of Dar es Salaam