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Students irked as Treasury outlines cuts to HELB funds

Monday, May 13th, 2024 06:13 | By
Naomi Chebet, the president of the Kenya Methodist University student association. PHOTO/Print
Naomi Chebet, the president of the Kenya Methodist University student association. PHOTO/Print

University  and college students are up in arms over a plan to slash education loans by Sh3.7 billion.

 The proposal to reduce aid available through the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB), they argued, will lock out thousands of needy students from accessing higher education.

 The National Treasury has proposed cutting Sh3.7 billion in the budget allocated to HELB in the 2024/2025 financial year.

 The Treasury wants to allocate Sh33.3 billion to HELB, a 10 percent reduction from the previous allocation.

Parents struggling

 Students would receive a revised range of Sh37,000 to Sh47,000, down from the previous Sh35,000 to Sh60,000.

 The proposal has upset leaders of university students and they want it removed.

They argued that reducing aid will lock out of higher education thousands of students from low-income families as many parents are struggling in a difficult economy.

 Led by Naomi Chebet (pictured), the president of the Kenya Methodist University student association, the sleaders noted that the number of needy students who rely on HELB to fund their education has increased significantly over the past few years.

They added that the proposed cut is tantamount to killing the dreams and careers of thousands of young Kenyans.

Ill-timed

 “If you compare 2017 and right now, the number of students in higher learning institutions has significantly increased by around 200,000,” Chebet said.

“If anything should be done to HELB, it should be increasing the money it offers to cater for the increased number of students. Education has become quite expensive for parents and we would urge parliamentarians to quash the proposal and advocate for an increase.”

  Her sentiments were echoed by her Kenyatta University counterpart Boniface Ododa, who called the proposal ill-timed and said it contradicts the government’s agenda of making it easier for all Kenyans to access higher education.

 Ododa maintained that Helb plays a pivotal role in bridging the gap between the rich and the poor by ensuring that even those at the bottom of the pyramid get higher education.

 Thousands of Kenyan students cannot afford university education and many parents are struggling financially.

“We demand that they stop the reduction and instead increase the amount they give students to facilitate the increased numbers in our universities,” Ododa said.

‘The government should stop the scheme to make education a preserve of the rich when it should be a unifying factor in our country.”

Medical  interns’ pay

Reducing the aid available from HELB will mean current beneficiaries who only rely on loans will fail to complete their studies, said Evans Machanga of Chuka University.

 The students urged the Treasury to drop the proposal and urged MPs not to approve it. They instead asked lawmakers to increase the HELB budget so as to benefit more deserving students.

 Meanwhile, the students waded into the dispute between the doctors’ union KMPDU and counties, saying medical interns are usually not students but people who have graduated and have degrees.

 Chebet, a medical science student, said the government should license all medical students upon graduation if it cannot fairly remunerate them as interns.

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