Education Cabinet Secretary Amb. Amina Mohamed on February 20 announced the intention to partner Higher Loans Education Board (HELB) with police and other crime busters to hunt down over 74, 000 loan defaulter. The CS reports that over Ksh 7.2Bn is yet to be repaid by the beneficiaries.
This announcement has raised heated debates amongst Kenyans where one group is strongly opposed to while the other is in support. There is a real significant need to come to an agreement to the decision by the ministry.
HELB benefits a lot of students from needy communities. Without the loans, a worrying number of Kenyan youths would never have realized their dreams of accessing the gates of universities and colleges. HELB disburses part of the amount directly to the institution’s school fees accounts. The other part of the loan is deposited into the student’s bank account from which they can withdraw for their personal use. No one can suggest that the amount is always enough for them, it is just a supplement to whatever the parents/or guardians can provide. It is therefore very noble that every beneficiary of this loan makes efforts to repay this loan. Perhaps it helps someone else, just like their case.
HELB is a loan that, just like any other loan with terms and conditions for payment, that needs to be repaid. While other loan issuing institutions will follow up on the loan securities once the loan period expires, the government will only deny you an opportunity to secure employment in the formal sector unless you are cleared by HELB offices. No pressure is ever mounted on them to repay in the expected times. Perhaps this is one reason why many will always be reluctant to repay the loans.
A number of the HELB beneficiaries claim that they have not yet secured employment, and that they yet not have the ability to repay the loans. HELB can allow them to repay the loans in as low as Ksh 500 installments every month. When the loan is however seen as the total, it will always be much and very scaring to start the repayment.
Again, the loan by the government gives its beneficiaries an opportunity to access learning institutions in which they get opportunities to learn to be self-dependent. Almost every programs in the universities and colleges in Kenya incorporate units on entrepreneurial skills. These skills should enable learners to be self-employable. Sadly, the greatest number of the learners only takes the units for the sake of getting good marks for them to be considered in the salaried employment markets.
As much as we are obligated to call upon the beneficiaries to repay the HELB loans, the fact that a number of them are still languishing in relatively miserable lives even years after graduation should be appreciated. HELB demands fines of Sh 5,000 from fresh graduates who fail to contact the board within one year of leaving college and starting the repayments. During the 2017 General Elections campaigns, the current government promised over 10, 000 new job opportunities for the youths in their manifesto. There has however not been any reliable assertion that this objective is yet to be honored after almost two years of power. That notwithstanding, such measures (as the most recent one to be adopted by the ministry) should be taken. Otherwise, these loans may never be repaid despite their significant role in the state.