The University of Malawi crafted Higher Education Students’ Loan aimed to benefit students attending Government Universities has for the past years heavily been politicized, critics argue.
Malawi government introduced loan scheme to students at state-run universities to increase access to higher education in the country where most school-leavers fail to secure a university place due to poverty.
Surprisingly, government on Saturday contradicted itself by abolishing loans with the quest to improve quality of learning environment through proper resourcing of secondary, Tertiary and Higher Education institutions.
Speaking to Malawi24, Executive Director of Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) Benedicto Kondowe said failure by the system to identify needy students left alot to be desired.
He attributed the problem to political interference that hit hard the Universities.
Kondowe further said that 97% of students who benefited from the system were not the needy.
Stated Kondowe, “Previously the loan scheme was heavily politicized and that the identification of needy students left alot to be desired in that some poor students were left out. Those who benefited were not necessarily needy students. To some extent the needy students have been left out because of the system which was not as effective as possible.”
Effect from the 2015/16 Academic year, there will not be Government sponsored students selected to Domasi College of Education and Public Universities and that students will be on self sponsorship basis.
Kondowe however commended government for its introduction of new system of registration saying it will plug holes in the current legal framework, which has been preventing it from recouping sufficient repayments from former students.
He told this publication that the idea will build on the failure of previous system on issue of payment of loan scheme. According to Kondowe, the Malawi government has heavily been investing towards scholarship but over time failed to transform it into revolving fund so that it becomes a self service mechanism.
He further cited the establishing of board specifically trusted to look into issues of loans at Institution of higher learning will regulating and guiding the operations around the loans.
“This will help in that through the board government will be able to devise the mechanism. The board can issue accessibility of loans and monitor the repayment. Every Malawian will benefit and the mechanism will be sustainable.”
Added Kondowe, “The current arrangement will also ensure that there is a coordinated arrangements when accessing the loans. No duplicity of efforts and through that will be able to consolidate in creating models that will be workable.”
The abolishment of scholarships offered by government will grant necessary power into provision of loans to this board so that government steps out. The system has been commended that it is likely to provide oversight function making the board able to account to government.
Government grants pay for 91% of university costs and miscellaneous income accounts for the remaining 9% of the University’s income.
Despite Malawi’s need for high-powered intellectual labour, it still depend on expatriate skilled labour far into the foreseeable future, unless the university system expands.