Government has extended the deadline for students applying to join higher institutions of learning under the government supported student loan scheme in the year 2017/18.
The State Minister for Higher Education, John Chrysostom Muyingo announced on Monday that applicants now have up to August 18 and August 31 for undergraduate and diploma programs respectively to have submitted their applications.
Initially, the Higher Education Students’ Financing Board (HESFB), the body that manages the students’ loan scheme had gazetted August 4 as the deadline.
However, Muyingo told journalists at a press conference at the Uganda Media Centre that delays associated with student admissions in public and private universities necessitated that the deadline be adjusted.
“We are extending the deadline for the loan applications to Friday August 18 for the undergraduate applicants and Thursday August 31 for those applying to pursue Diplomas,” the Minister said.
“Any delays on the part of universities cause delays in the processing of documents for eligible students under the scheme.”
The students’ loan scheme which was rolled out in 2014 to widen access to higher learning across the country has so far awarded loans to a total of 3,799 students pursuing science courses as the law requires.
In the first intake, 1,201 students benefited from the loans while 1,276 students and 1,325 students benefited in the 2015/16 and 2016/17 years respectively.
Since 2014, the numbers of beneficiaries has increased slightly year on year and so has the number of academic programs as well as the universities absorbing the supported students. The academic courses have risen to 74 from 26 while the universities (public and private) are now 18 from 12 in 2014.
Meanwhile, Muyingo revealed that effective this academic year (2017/18), government will allow students to pursue courses in humanities but that this will be limited to those with disability. Courses to be considered under this category include; Social Sciences, Arts in Education and Law.
“In 2017/18, the people with disability will be able to apply for any course in Humanities. We are still discussing the modalities on how this will be done. We shall focus in Humanities that are more professional because we don’t want to create a mass of people that will go on streets and are unable to do anything,” Michael Wanyama the Executive Director, HESFB told the press.
Officials from the Higher Education Students’ Financing Board disregarded claims that the scheme was supporting students from economically stable families at the expense of the needy students.
Rev. Fr. Prof. Callisto Locheng who chairs the Board clarified that the beneficiaries are determined using a computer system based on a scorecard in defined variables. This is intended to minimize human interaction and eliminate chances of corruption.
Despite its meager funding (currently Ush 23 billion), Rev. Fr. Locheng said the Board has managed to effectively utilize the resources to ensure that only the needy benefit.
The loans are given to students to enable them pay their tuition fees and the law requires that the student repays the money to government with a 7% value retention fee once he/she has secured employment.