THE government has so far collected over Frw 1.5million from the beneficiaries of the 1980 established student loan scheme.
Reports from Student Financing Agency for Rwanda (SFAR) archives indicate that the government is targeting about Frw15billion from student loan recovery system.
According to the Director General of SFAR Emmanuel Muvunyi, the government has over 22,000 former and current university students who are expected to reimburse the money in the database.
The SFAR officials and Ministry of education say they have established a fully fledged loan recovery scheme and the funds advanced to students in form of loans will time after time end up back to state coffers.
At the official launch of the student loan scheme at Serena Hotels on November 13, 29 top government leaders who benefited to the scholarship during their studies in the past years paid back the loans.
This, according to Muvunyi was a good gesture, signifying that whoever benefits from the scheme has to pay back the funds to help more Rwandans get education.
These included, Prime Minister Mr. Bernard Makuza, the president of the Senate Mr. Vincent Biruta and the Education minister, Jeanne D’Arc Mujawamariya, Health minister, Dr Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo, Solina Nyirahabimana (President’s office) among others.
About eight thousand former beneficiaries are so far said to be registered with SFAR.
The SFAR public Relation Officer Desire Gacinya said on Thursday about sixteen accounts throughout the country would be opened up to all former loanees deposits the money.
Since its inception, the government has been providing loans to students to study in Institutions of Higher Learning in a stepped-up campaign to get rid of illiteracy in the country. But there has not been clear mechanism put in place to recover the money.
According to Ministry of education and SFAR officials, the recovery of the loans will allow more Rwandans live decent lives since they would be skilled and able to competitive worldwide.
Since the loans do not carry interests, the government, according to SFAR believes the scheme is accommodative and fair enough to all Rwandans.
Previously, the government has been providing Frw25, 000 in cash on top of tuition fees.
Now, before even to access the loan, students must be hardworking in the first place.
The new system provides that the loan will given basing on students’ performance in school and a course one intends to pursue, financial status, and general needs of the student.
According to Minister Mujawmariya, the government will be paying 75 percent of expenses to students who are taking science courses and come from poor families.
In addition, the government will be meeting 25 percent of the total tuition fees to poor students who are taking humanities courses.
“We shall be deducting eight percent from everyone’s gross salary and we expect maximum cooperation from employers to remit and deposit the money on SFAR’s accounts which will be made public,” Muvunyi said.
Education plays a leading role in the national development and all winning nations have introduced student loans to help their citizen access education.
Student loan scheme is not new in the region. Neighboring countries like Kenya run a University Students Loan Scheme (USLS) which benefits both students studying in government and private universities.
It, when applied well increases equitable access to higher education in African states since the biggest percentage of families cannot afford to pay education bills for their children.
Rebuilding a nation especially in the modern times without well-trained human resources is a futile attempt and a waste of resources.
States who have already introduced schemes have benefited through producing the technical, scientific, administrative and managerial expertise of a high calibre desperately needed by any developing nation including Rwanda which is emerging from Genocide aftermath.
The idea shows that all Rwandans must be skilled, and with this policy which is education for all is aimed at getting rid of poverty.
With the loan scheme in place, many disadvantaged groups like women, the poor and those from rural areas who still find it hard to compete equitably for education can now do it.
No doubt student loans can be an effective avenue to enable bright students from rural areas, poor families and females for higher education. Student loans are a fair institution to finance bright but disadvantaged students to access higher education.
Students in public higher institutions of learning have expressed discontent over the new student’s loan scheme yet to commence.
The students are already worried that while the Students Loan Scheme is good, it could be unsustainable in the long run since government can not be sure the students who are loaned money will get jobs and pay back.
“It is a contract between the students and government and devaluation will not be considered because it is not stipulated in that contract; so they will be paying the actual amount they owe the government,” Muvunyi said.
However, a cabinet meeting that sat on November 2 resolved that university students will be required to pay for their tuition fees while the poor will be facilitated to acquire loans from banks.
Cabinet empathized that the ones to be facilitated or acquire loans at a later stage are those that will be studying disciplines that are in line with government development programmes.
The government will deposit funds in designated financial institutions where students will be able to access loans beginning next year.
In the new programme, government will contribute 50 percent of the tuition fees for students doing arts courses, and 75 percent for students undertaking science subjects.
“This does not include the monthly upkeep package. Those from well-to-do families will sponsor themselves,” Mujawamariya added.
Government will also fully pay for students who hail from very low income families and have scored either a distinction in science related subjects or a grand distinction for arts students.