MP urges President to assent to HELB bill
30 September 2015, 10:47
Nakuru - Nakuru town East Member of Parliament, David Gikaria has urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to sign into law the Higher Education Loans Board (Amendment) bill to help poor students to further their Education.
Speaking to News24 Tuesday in Nakuru town, the lawmaker said the bill if passed will shield graduates from paying interest on government study loans even when they fail to land jobs immediately after graduation.
“It is not a crime to fail to secure employment after graduation. However, unemployed graduates will be required to sign annual affidavits indicating that they are jobless to avoid being slapped with interest levies on the loans," said Gikaria.
The affidavits, he said, will ensure those who abuse the provision by stating that they are jobless when they have a source of income are charged for giving false information.
Gikaria lauded the bill that was passed by Parliament in August this year, saying it will help bright but poor students to realize their dreams by accessing higher education.
The MP also said that HELB needed more funding to cater for the swelling number of beneficiaries depending on the loans.
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“Treasury should also dispatch money to HELB to enable it make remittances to students without undue delays," noted the MP.
The proposed changes come at a time when the Treasury has increased Helb’s budgetary allocation by KES 1.8 billion for the financial year starting June.
The government set aside KES 7.5 billion for the fiscal year 2015/16 to sponsor students in universities, up from KES 5.7 billion previously allocated.
Helb recently said it needed more than KES 10 billion to meet the funding needs, a signal that the allocation would be inadequate.
The private bill that was sponsored by Kiharu MP, Irungu Kangata proposed changes to the HELB Act, including requiring graduates who do not secure jobs within one year of graduation to enable them to repay their loans to notify HELB in writing on the lack of a source of income to be spared of penalties.
The bill further proposes changes to section 14 of the existing laws to oblige the board to notify applicants upon processing of their loan requests and to allow appeal for additional funds where necessary.
If the bill becomes law, two students’ representatives, one from a public university and another from a private university, will also be part of the board of the higher education funding agency, which is currently governed by a team of 11 members.
The bill also seeks to amend Section 13 of the HELB Act to open the doors to students who are minors and wish to be considered for higher education loans to apply through their parents or guardians.
“Where a student is granted a higher education loan, the loan shall be transferred to the student’s name upon attaining the age of consent,” the bill says.
The Bill further gives regular students in public universities priority in the disbursement of study loans over those pursuing parallel programmes and those in private universities.
The Bill imposes penalties on loan defaulters, including being locked out of employment in the public sector.
Currently, defaulters, including those who notify the agency that they are unemployed, face an automatic KES 5 000 cumulative monthly fine.
More than 67 000 new students are set to join university this year, up from about 57 000 last year, increasing the demand for loans.
The loans agency in January slashed the highest allocation per student to KES 50 000 from KES 60 000 per academic year for students who joined university last year.
Helb has expanded its loan services to students in private universities and Kenyan students in institutions based in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.
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