Students criticise loan scheme procedure

KIGALI - The procedure to identify needy students to benefit from the new government’s loan scheme for higher education has come under criticism, with some students questioning its reliability.
SFAR chief Muvunyi has defended the scheme.
SFAR chief Muvunyi has defended the scheme.

KIGALI - The procedure to identify needy students to benefit from the new government’s loan scheme for higher education has come under criticism, with some students questioning its reliability.

Some of the unsuccessful loan applicants complain that the Students Financing Agency for Rwanda (SFAR) insisted on written documents to prove one’s financial status instead of looking at the issue from a more comprehensive perspective.

Although SFAR has described the scheme as a means to end bursary misallocations, some students find the process inefficient.

A School of Finance and Bank (SFB) student, Andrew Mwemere, who lost out on the loan initiative after SFAR rejected his papers, said a period of one month was very short for the agency to ascertain financial capacities of all applicants.

He said if poverty was anything to go by, then he automatically qualifies for the education loan.

Mwemere said he comes from a poor family in Ngoma District, Eastern Province, and thinks there are many other disadvantaged students who have been left out.

Another complainant at Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) said: “For us with no sources of funding this initiative has only come to ruin our higher education hopes. Some students have been rejected unfairly.”

Even some that qualified for the scheme say the process is questionable as it has victimised some of their colleagues.

Ephraim Sebakara of Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), who made it to the final list of those that will benefit from the scheme, said his friend, Antoine Kamuhangire, was left out and yet he comes from a family with no financial muscle to cover his tertiary education tuition fees.

However, the Director General of SFAR, Emmanuel Muvunyi, dismissed their allegations saying that the institution conducted a fair and transparent screening exercise to determine students that really need the assistance.

He said by demanding that applicants present written information from local leaders regarding their financial capacities was to avoid defaulters.

“Those who followed those procedures have all succeeded, but those who didn’t should not expect loans. There are those with capacity to pay for themselves,” he said.

Muvunyi estimated that 80 percent of the applicants had passed the screening exercise.
Meanwhile, some public higher learning institutions are worried that some students may abandon their tertiary education at a later stage without paying their tuition since SFAR has not circulated the lists of the authentic beneficiaries.

“This issue should be speeded up so that we know who has been selected and who has not been,” KIE Academic Registrar, Augstin Ngabirame, said.

It also emerged that some first year students at some tertiary institutions were yet to turn up for registration, a situation some have linked to the loan facility.

For instance at KIST, at least 33 first year students were yet to show up for registration a month after the beginning of new academic year.

“We are not sure if they were selected (for the loan scheme) or not but what I can tell you is that they now have only up to a month to register or lose their positions,” KIST Vice Rector, Prof. Paul Maringa, said last week.

This is all happening at the time when the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) has recommended new tuition fees for tertiary education in Rwanda.

In letters to all higher learning institution in January, the council set the baseline for tuition fees at higher learning education at Frw530, 000 (social sciences) and the maximum at Frw1, 325,000 (medicine) annually depending on the course on is undertaking.

Normally Rwandan private university students have been paying Frw300, 000 annually, while foreign students pay Frw500, 000.

The Executive Director of the NCHE, Prof. Pamela Abbott said the government currently spends Frw1.2m on a government-sponsored varsity student in social sciences and Frw1.5m for a student in sciences.

“That is no where near what private students are paying currently,” she said.

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