Students riot over Higher Education Loans Board loan delay

Business was disrupted in Nairobi and Mombasa yesterday as university students took to the streets to protest delayed release of loans by the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb).

In Nairobi, University of Nairobi and Technical University students marched from Haile Selassie Avenue through Uhuru Highway to Helb offices at Anniversary Towers.

The students forced their way pushing the Anniversary Towers gates open demanding to speak to Helb Chief executive Officer Charles Ringera. For close to three hours, traffic was paralysed along major roads in the city including Waiyaki Way, Uhuru Highway and University Way.

"A number of students have not received money. Others got communication via SMS that money would be in their accounts but as of this morning, they had not received any money. We will continue with this until when the said loan is reflected in our accounts," said Students Association of Technical University of Kenya vice-chair Joseph Karuri.

Police engaged the students in running battles for close to three hours as major roads including University Way and parts of Uhuru Highway were blocked with motorists being diverted to other routes. Police lobbed tear gas canisters at the students to disburse them and avoid any damage and disruption.

Students Organisation of Nairobi University (Sonu) chairman Babu Owino said only some students had received the Helb loans adding that a good number are yet to receive the funds.

"We cannot attend class or pay for our accommodation or even afford to buy food and because we lack money, we now eat like chicken instead of eating the chicken. We will not relent until every single student has received their loan," he said.

He said if such a situation presents itself in the future and their funds are delayed, they will still use demonstrations because it appears dialogue with the government does not bear fruits.

Ringera said Helb had released Sh1.8billion on Thursday, which he said the students were able to access by close of business yesterday. He said the delay was occasioned by the institutions' early opening dates.

"Previously, colleges and universities opened by September 15. We would then process the money within a week or two. But this time, almost all the institutions were opened on September 1, and this put pressure on us," said Ringera.

However, more than 56,938 government-sponsored First Year students who started reporting last month, will have to wait until November to get loans.

Technical University of Mombasa students also engaged police in running battles over delay in disbursement of funds by Helb. Traffic was disrupted on major roads in the town.