Busia rejects proposal to scrap county Helb fund

The county says students unhappy with the loan scheme should apply for money through other products

In Summary

• The fund is a partnership between the county government and the Higher Education Loans Board.

• Students say only a few applicants benefit and those who do can't repay because there are no jobs.

Busia Chief Education Officer Dan Mogoria.
IN SUPPORT: Busia Chief Education Officer Dan Mogoria.

Busia county has rejected a proposal by some university and college students who sought the scrapping of the revolving fund disbursed by the Higher Education Loans Board.

Chief Education Officer Dan Mogori told the Star the devolved unit will not abolish any county education loan product. The fund is a partnership between the county government and Helb. The county allocates money to be distributed to college and university students in the form of loans. Interested learners apply through the board.

On Friday, students from Teso North told Governor Sospeter Ojaamong to scrap the fund. They said only a few students receive the money. The students engaged in a heated discussion with Teso North MP Oku Kaunya.

But Mogoria yesterday said students who are not satisfied with the scheme can as well apply for financial assistance from the county, adding that Busia has diverse financial products that support students.

“The problem with our people is that they love free things. As a county, we have the county revolving fund, which is a partnership between the county and Helb. There is Afya Elimu programme for students at Kenya Medical Training Colleges as well as the scholarship for students at ward level. We also have bursaries,” he said.

“Let them apply for products they are contented with. We cannot abolish one product in favour of the other.”

On Monday, Teso North University and College Students Association (Tenucsa) president Edgar Okisai said the money should be channelled as bursaries. They said if the county retains the loan, then it should be serviced without interest. Okisai said there are no jobs for students who complete studies, hence no money to repay the loan.

The money is disbursed as tuition fees. Successful applicants start repaying after completing their studies.

“We are formally writing to the county government to present our complaint,” Okisai said.

“Most of our comrades are 'hustling' and have no jobs. The money does not help us. There is a lot of bias, compared to the national Helb.”

Tenucsa secretary-general Jeremiah Ongor said, “If at all it has to be the county HELB, then the amount should be paid without interest. We fill the forms and many of them get rejected.”

Leonard Karakacha, an alumnus of Moi University, said the national Helb loan is enough for students and Busia should do away with its loaning scheme.

“Let the county focus on boosting the bursaries issued to students. For instance, if the county can issue each university or college student with Sh15,000-20,000 bursary and we add the national government Affirmative Fund from the Woman Representative, that is approximately Sh10,000 to each student, then add Sh10,000 from the Constituency Development Fund, isn’t that enough to cater for students’ fees?” he said.

Benjamin Emorut, a second-year student from Machakos University, said many students would benefit if the county Helb money is paid as bursaries however little each student receives.

On November 28, Helb raised concern over the low uptake of the loan product. It called for sensitisation. Official data show that in 2019, only 355 students in the seven Busia subcounties applied for the revolving fund.

Budalang’i had the least number of students at 17. Funyula had 19, with Butula recording the highest at 92. Matayos had the second-highest number at 76, with Teso North coming third at 54. Teso South and Nambale had 52 and 45 respectively.