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Panic as students fail to apply for Helb loans

By Augustine Oduor | Aug 26th 2019 | 3 min read

Helb chief executive Charles Ringera in his office on November 16, 2018. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Panic has hit the Ministry of Education and Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) over the declining number of continuing students in middle level colleges taking up subsequent allocations.

It emerged yesterday that only half of the 43,000 who applied for loans last year have applied for a second allocation, raising questions on the whereabouts of the others.

Questions are also being raised whether the students are dropping out of colleges after completing only one year of study, raising concerns over prudent utilisation of public resources.

The concern is further registered among first time applicants, with only 46,000 requests received by Helb out of the 98,000 who applied through the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS).

Helb Chief Executive Officer Charles Ringera said only 17,980 online application forms have been received from continuing diploma students, as registration deadline is pushed to October 31.

“We do not know where the other students are because we allocated them money previously and they are slow at making applications for subsequent years and this is a major challenge for us,” said Ringera.

Ministry of Education experts are also worried by the trend.

Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Principal Secretary Kevit Desai yesterday said the ministry has instructed principals of the colleges to enhance awareness among students on loans.

“Helb has assured us that this year all students will get the monies they request for. We previously had a challenge with allocations, with many dropping out for failing to top up the balance,” said Desai.

The PS said Helb has undertaken to sensitise students in colleges on the need to take up loans with a view of enticing them to complete college studies.

Ringera said continuing students who have already completed the application process will get the money in their accounts ahead of the September opening dates.

“They will be verified and disbursement for tuition and upkeep (into their respective bank accounts) of Sh26,400 and Sh13,600, respectively, will be done ahead of their opening dates in September 2019,” he said.

Each student enrolled in TVET institutions is eligible for loans of up to Sh40,000 a year.

Of these, Sh26,400 is paid directly to the college to cater for tuition while Sh13,600 is sent directly to a student’s account. University students currently get Sh27,000 for their upkeep.

Ringera pleaded with the students to make applications before the deadline.

“We call upon the students who are yet to apply, to print and submit their Loan Application forms to hasten the process before the deadline of October 31, 2019,” he said.

For first time applicants, Helb said it is targeting to fund up to 72,000 students.

“We therefore call on this cohort to hasten the application process and delivery of the forms through our countrywide branches in Huduma Centres or at Anniversary Towers before the deadline,” he said.

Overall, Helb has set aside about Sh10 billion to cater for both first time applicants and continuing university students.

Of these, Ringera said, Sh6.8 billion has been disbursed to 156,283 continuing university students.

“This money will also help in facilitating their transport back to university after their holidays,” he said.

Helb targets to fund a total of 171,600 applications from continuing students. This means that 15,317 students are yet to make applications for subsequent allocations.

A majority of the students are expected to report back to college today.

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