Minister orders loan funds to be released to students

After months of confusion following the discovery of more than 2,000 ‘ghost students’, and a ministerial order issued last week, Tanzania’s Higher Education Students' Loans Board or HESLB has started disbursing funds to universities, and students have begun settling into studies that had been delayed by the loans saga.

Minister for Education, Science and Technology Joyce Ndalichako ordered HESLB to release the funds to students via their universities after appearing in parliament to address concerns raised over the delay in loans disbursement.

HESLB has so far paid universities money covering loans for 20,391 students out of 25,717 admitted for the 2016-17 academic year, and will continue providing loans to 93,295 ongoing students, making a total of 119,012 loan beneficiaries.

A total of US$216.5 million has been allocated for university students this financial year, out of which US$25.1 million will come from revolving funds.

In June this year, parliament approved US$222 million for HESLB, to be disbursed on a quarterly basis.

In August, the government suspended the loans of 2,192 'ghost' students in 31 universities and ordered the institutions to return funds amounting to US$1.8 million. The controversy delayed the disbursement of loans, and studies for some students.

In October, Tanzanian President Dr John Magufuli announced that all deserving students admitted to higher learning institutions would be issued with loans.

Missing out

Some students who have missed out on loans for the new academic year have until January 2017 to appeal to HESLB.

HESLB Managing Director Abdul Badru said the students who would miss out on loans were those who did not provide correct information in their loan application forms.

“HESLB is verifying all loan application forms tendered by students and those who have provided wrong information will be cancelled from the list. But they have until January 2017 to appeal for loans again,” said Badru.

“This is a 90-day appeal window to allow both new and continuing students to challenge the board’s grading decision and subsequently cover a gap of over 5,000 students whose funds for loans have already been set aside.”

The window will involve students who did not qualify for the bursary and those who were not satisfied with the grading system for the 2016-17 academic year.

Improving the system

Badru said HESLB was updating its database and the board would make major changes in regards to the loans status of students.

While addressing parliament on the issue of the loans delay, Ndalichako said it was also caused by some universities not submitting final student results to HESLB, which will only pay for students who have passed their exams.

The government is evaluating new modalities for the higher education admissions systems, including the process of student loan allocation and repayment, with a view to developing a new and improved strategy that will improve efficiency in the system. The new strategy is expected early next year, and can be accommodated in the 2017-18 budget.